The idea was simple.
Imagine an app, like Instagram, where you could post a photo of yourself, where you were in the world (or are), what activity you wanted to do and invite people to join you.
It was called, Joinly (formerly Travelist until we received a trademark infringement notice).
In 2016 I applied to a Chilean-based accelerator called The S-Factory. It was specifically for female-led founders. I applied and was accepted. I would work out of the Santiago offices of the parent accelerator, Startup Chile.
I would take care of all of the research, design, branding, frontend and pitching and my co-founder, Andrew, would focus on the finances and development (Ruby on Rails).
The first thing we all had to do was pitch our ideas to each other and other participants of Startup Chile. So, I did a photoshoot with some other members of the program, put together a design and finally, a pitchdeck using Keynote.Download the pitchdeck here
We started researching potential problems with social apps, user acquisition and possible solutions to each problem. Before we even started designing or building we had to know:
We set out to interview as many people as we could, both online and off. I visited countless Hostels around Santiago to interview travellers and we posted the survey to Google Forms.
We just wanted a general feel for the market and how people would react to a travel product like ours.Download the survey results (xlsx)
What I discoved was we would need a much larger sampling of people but we had enough interest to continue building an MVP within the 6 month timeframe.
I designed and put up a marketing page and we got started.
Andrew needed to know (and fair enough) how this app was going to work so below is one of 3 different user flows that I created based on who we thought might use the app. This is the "single woman" user flow.Download the User Flow
Given this was a 2-person team, I skipped the wireframing stage and went straight to Sketch and started designing. Since this was an MVP, I took a pragmatic approach to the design and supplied what Andrew needed and/or asked for whether it be a style guide, icon set or interactive prototype.
If it didn't work the first time, I did it again until it did.See sample Invision prototype
During the program I participated in workshops and classes that taught us how to present our ideas, create workflows and conduct research.
Here I showed my fellow participants the power of quickly sketching out ideas.
The truth is, we didn't really have a solid business model when we started and if I were to embark on building another app I wouldn't do anything until I had one. It's already incredibly difficult to build a successful company and the "figure it out later" approach almost never works.
How is this app going to make money?
We went back and forth between a simple advertising model (ad placement between listings) to eventually settling on an upgrade model.
This model was for individuals and companies who wanted to sell their services such as yoga instructors or tour guides.
We decided Joinly was going to be an Experience app and we would take a percentage of whatever the individual or company decided to charge for their services.
We were working on Joinly before Airbnb released AirBnb Experiences.
At month five development was slow and again, if I were to have a do-over I would have focussed more on development and less on design, especially for the MVP. Since the app wasn't ready, we used the Invision prototype to test and validate our idea.
We would receive feedback from users, document the feedback and incorporate the most requested features into the roadmap.
We were still working on Joinly long after the S-Factory program finished and once the program funding was gone (about $20, 000 USD) both Andrew and I could only work on it part-time.
This slowed us down considerably and we expected we would have a functioning MVP within 6 months.
There were several factors that resulted in us shutting down Joinly. Some of these were:
I absolutely do not believe in regrets. The amount of learning and life experience gained from attempting to build, not just an app, but a company, cannot be gained without trying - even if you fail.
In my time in Chile I learned how to pitch an idea to a large crowd, how to give and receive constructive feedback, how to help others move their own ideas forward, how to manage conflict and difficult conversations (of which Andrew and I had many), how to manage insane amounts of paperwork and not lose your mind and lastly and most importantly...
I made life-long friends. Not just contacts, although there was plently of those, but friends from all over the world with incredibly diverse backgrounds and life stories.
It was a rich and rewarding life experience that I will always be grateful for.