Digital Business Match-Making Platform
We built a digital platform for our client who annually hosts a business match-making event for bright eyed startups and their intrepid investor counterparts. We designed a digital platform that would extend the reach of the event beyond the limited confines of a 3 day gathering by enabling attendees to interact and match online. This digital matching platform further spread the clients reach to new clientele as it enabled people who traditionally were not able to attend the event due to time, financial or geographic constraints to now have access to an online menu of startups and investors with which to connect.
Our digital solution provided a platform where entrepreneurs and investors could fast track their business objectives.
Typically Startups & Entrepreneurs don’t have the connections they need and say there is a lack of the following :
- Finance and funding,
- Business and financial management skills,
- Entrepreneurial mentoring, and
- Partners, suppliers and collaborators.
Investors too have their own frustrations that they are looking to minimise or overcome as they recognise a lack of :
- Investment intelligence & market insights,
- Inaccessible geographies & markets, and
- Difficulty in establishing a steady flow of quality investment opportunities (startups) to fill their “Deal Flow” pipeline.
A design process was undertaken over two months in order to understand user needs initially and create a development scope for our digital platform.
To upgrade the client’s current 3 day mobile event application to a fully fledged year round web application we conducted an agile design thinking process.
Design thinking is a hands-on, user-focused approach to problem solving that is important for effective innovation. Innovation in turn leads to greater market differentiation and competitive advantage.
We utilised a 5 stage design thinking methodology defined by the “Design Thinking Process” which is typically constituted by the 5 phases illustrated below.
As the image suggests we took time to empathize with our user by running a test group of potential users through a persona mapping workshop. We also did a scan of the entrepreneur/investor matchmaking landscape by conducting a comparative analysis of the top matchmaking solutions available in the market presently.
Drawing on the comparative analysis and persona workshop design features and functionality were then brainstormed. A sitemap, task flows and Lo-Fi wireframes were then drawn up in the ideation and prototyping phase. The solution we came to was finally tested by interviewing former summit attendees on the phone and guerilla testing users live.
When launching a digital platform within the South African context it was important to ensure that our users have a globally competitive and congruent experience.
Thus, we needed to clarify what makes platform performance better or worse, what kind of design would lead to seamless and positive UX, and how strong of a value proposition we could put forward.
The comparative analysis involved desktop research that looked at 46 startup, investor, ecosystem and fundraising platforms from across the english speaking world. These were considered and compared across various metrics.
The benefit of benchmarking through a comparative analysis process is the advantages achieved in simply not reinventing the wheel but rather learning from the market. This helped to bring a market relevant perspective to bear on how our solution was designed.
These are the 2 main insights gleaned from our analysis:
1 Critical mass and user acquisition strategy
The successful deployment of the platform is dependent on a critical mass of users onboarding the system so as to achieve the desired network effect being sought by the users. An aggressive user acquisition strategy is therefore of vital necessity
2 Credibility and trust
Credibility needs to be built into the system by ensuring that the information on the site is accurate. And trust is built through making sure that the personal and business data submitted on the platform are secure. These aspects were key to smooth user adoption of the platform.
In designing the platform we had to consider who the platform is intended to serve and we built a persona map to frame the needs and characteristics of our target audience. We ran through the 5 tenets of design thinking.
The Start Up
We called and interviewed startups and got a better grasp of their situation and challenges.
We then synthesized our findings and wrote out a clear definition of how and where the startups were experiencing their pain points.
After empathising with the entrepreneur we then brainstormed, researched and workshopped potential solutions to their problems.
We developed a prototype that would be likely to meet the networking and funding needs of an entrepreneur. Our platform would accelerate the startups process of finding and making the connections with the people and resources they need for business success.
Finally we tested our prototype on real people to see how well it worked and how effectively it solved the current problems and achieved the desired outcomes.
We spoke to some investors to zero in on their needs and perspectives.
Work off of some clearly defined investor desires and objectives we moved into the next phase.
Workshop, design, research. We got down to the nuts and bolts of what an investor wants to see.
We pooled together our collective learning and experience and came up with a prototype that spoke to the requirements of our users.
We approached some test subjects to get some objective feedback
In designing the solution, three areas were foregrounded in the sitemap.
- Landing Page
The landing page is designed to attract and guide the user to the site’s functionality in a simple, quick and beautiful way.
In onboarding the intention is to make this process as quick and easy as possible so as not to drive away potential users because of a laborious on-boarding process.
- Core Functionality
The core functionality of the site revolves around connecting entrepreneurs with investors and so creating a digital environment for user profiles to interact and engage is key.
The valuable process of finding and matching with the preferable parties using machine learning.
Messaging and scheduling meetings with the relevant users is the primary value add of the service.
Positioning the platform as a data repository for the client was an attractive feature.
The resources will assist all users improve their skills to develop the business, gain tips to invest or even to expand their horizons.
Here is an example of a Hi-Fi wire-frame that we put together for the client.
The landing page
The value proposition is set out upfront.
The sign up is quick and the next step is prompted.
2. Sign up
The sign-up was designed to be as painless as possible. There are options to sign up with Facebook, Linkedin and Google accounts.
3. Onboarding Sequences
Then comes an onboarding sequence. Here profiling data is gathered.
There are 3 options for the user, namely, “Startup,” “Investor,” or “Other.” This third option caters to anyone not falling into the first two categories.
Users are required to input their name and a short bio. And then they are given predefined profile option, characteristics and descriptors to fill out their profile.
4. Startup Profile
The startup profile features a profile picture, biographical paragraph and navigational options.
This Hi-Fi version shows a menu bar, profile picture, biographical paragraph, connections with other profiles listed and progress/value badges.
Once the user profile is complete the user is directed to their dashboard. Here the user can manage their account and get acquainted with profiles that have been recommended to them.
The users can access the main functions from this board.
In March 2020 the client approved a budget for the development of our digital business matchmaking design. Construction on the platform was halted due the adverse effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.