So many people come to big cities like New York from all over the world. Most of these people don’t have many connections, friends, or network with which to do any kind of physical activity. I encountered a similar problem when I just landed in New York; I didn’t have any connections. Since I like playing table tennis, I really wished that an app similar to this existed through which I could find connections based on my sports interests and then find a place and people I could actually play with.
Goal: Design and test MVP to get proof of concept
Startup Business Analysis
The Business concept is very similar to what Airbnb does. On the one side, we could have the people who love physical activities (essentially the sports Airbnb guests) and on the other end, we could have sports facility managers (like Airbnb homeowners). The mission, then, is to connect them and make a commission every time they book a sports facility.
The American market is very different from the European one, or should I say the Eastern European one. My first task was to analyze the market. I needed to understand how many projects exist with a similar idea to mine within the American market. I wanted to learn their business models, the number of amateur leagues, the number of people exercising regularly, etc. I thought this information would be quite helpful in helping me figure out the next step.
There are some leading platforms with similar ideas and concepts currently active in the US, among them https://leagueapps.com/ or https://www.zogsports.com/. Also, there are platforms based on a similar idea, but which differ in concept. For example, https://classpass.com/ or https://www.withconfetti.com/. And of course, how can I forget about https://www.meetup.com/ with their 2000 sports-related groups that only serve the NYC area. There are also related Facebook groups and services, and Airbnb Experience. When you have such strong competitors, it means two things, both good and bad. The bad news is that a new entrant will find it difficult to compete with the more established platforms who have been in the business for quite a while. The good thing, however, is that the presence of a strong competition means that the market is alive and that if you deliver the best product or service, you can possibly cut some part of the pie.
There are 1.8 million people in NYC who regularly do physical activities, and 57% of them are members of different activity groups, but who happen to be looking for new connections based on their physical activity preferences. A regular New Yorker spends about $155 on a physical activity every month, which is equivalent to a $155 million dollar market size per month. This is a huge market opportunity.
Business model concept
After some market and business opportunity research, I have come up with a business model. There are two parts to it. The first is the social part, which allows people to create a group, communicate, and eventually build a network. Once they have a community, they will definitely need a place to engage in their physical activities. That’s where monetization comes in. Every time any community goes offline, they will need to book a facility, something they currently have to do through our platform. The concept is very similar to Airbnb. It’s like Airbnb for sports. Every time they book the place we make a commission on each transaction.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
I mentioned that bigger sites like Meetup and Airbnb lack a networking feature through which users can find each other. Meetup, for example, has a strong group service where people can connect to each other and build a network, despite not having user accounts for sports facilities. Airbnb Experience doesn’t have a networking capability between guests.
In this instance, this app’s USP is to provide users with a network through which they can find other people with similar activity interests and then book a facility to play. It’s a perfect mix of Meetup and Airbnb.
The plan sounds good but I still needed more insights. I spoke to about 40 different people from different backgrounds, different genders, ages, social status, etc. I was trying to uncover people’s behavior when it comes to exercising. Do they prefer to exercise with friends or alone, when and where do they exercise, what’s their favorite activity, how often do they play etc, as well as what apps they use to connect with other people, and how active are they online.
After the interviews, I was able to come up with personas and empathy map.
Persona 1. Jane
Persona 2. Carlos
After interviewing people, and accomplishing research and persona creation, it is easier to clarify the problem and start brainstorming solutions. I identified 2 main problems that we sought to solve:
The goal of this milestone is to create a fast MVP with minimum investment and with maximum feedback from users. For the first milestone, I focused on a minimalistic design and on solving the first problem: lack of sports connections.
Value Proposition Canvas
I organized the whiteboarding workshop with all the ideas placed on the whiteboard following the value proposition canvas. Thereafter, I made all necessary UI/UX steps to clarify the MVP structure and the technical requirements, among them Sitemap, User journey, Wireframe, and finally the prototype.
Ideating the Solution
Then it was time to start sketching. I came up with several potential solutions to each of the pain points and made some rough UI sketches. I wanted to be able to review them together with my team so that everybody could be on the same page.
I did some preliminary validation on the Lo-Fi UI sketches and used the feedback to refine my sketches and narrow down my solutions for the Hi-Fi mockups.
Should a product designer be worried about business models and marketing? The answer is affirmative. In this project, my first task was to understand the business model and marketing strategy. You probably know that only 3% of all startups are successful and able to generate profit, so this is very important for product designers to understand the main concepts of a product development life cycle starting with an idea on a napkin and finishing with a market-ready product.
Special thanks CUNY for a great opportunity to validate this project idea in the Startup Incubator 2018.
Thanks for reading! The next step of the project is launching an MVP on a marketplace. If you are a developer and would be interested in helping me realize this idea please feel free to reach out to me to discuss a possible collaboration. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect via LinkedIn.