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What's the deal with lean startup in business? Calgary-based app creator weighs in

By ATB Financial 30 October 2018 3 min read

So, you’re all ready to play in the badminton match to end all badminton matches when your best friend and badminton buddy bales. Again. Does it really have to be this hard to workout with someone? Not anymore, thanks to Hafiz Mitha and the Playcity App.

“We’re dedicated to connecting people through play,” shared Hafiz. He and the Playcity App team do this by connecting everyone from workout junkies to basketball buffs on a mobile app, allowing them to browse and invite other players who match them in skill, sport, availability, and memberships.

But Playcity wasn’t built in a day. In order to make an app that works, Hafiz needed to do a little bit of experimentation—or in business terms, he used the lean startup approach.


Hold up, what’s lean startup?

Instead of going the traditional route of starting a business—write a business plan, pitch it to investors, get a team together, introduce a product and sell as much as you can—minimize the risk of losing big by creating and testing a minimal viable product, or MVP for short.

The MVP is a bare bones version of your product, one that you can show to your potential customers to gain feedback. Based on what you learn, make the changes—instead of wasting tons of time and money on a completed product you thought would work.


Lean startup in action

The app how it functions today is a far cry from its first iteration. “PlayCity started off as the Tinder for sports buddies,” explained Hafiz. “The idea was that dating apps did a great job using preferences to let people swipe right or swipe left on people they found to be a good fit.”

Hafiz quickly found out that the Tinder approach wasn’t working, since it relied on both parties matching. They had 300 people on the app and no matches were being made. “We learned that to make it more effective, a better method was inviting and allowing the second user to accept or decline the invite.”

Since that update, Hafiz and his team then learned that many people didn't know where to play, so they added in the location feature. “And after that,” Hafiz shared, “we learned that people saw cool events after the fact, so we decided to allow our partners to publish events within the app.”

“Lean startup was the only way to go for us because there were—and still are—so many variables that determine the next sprint. Validating assumptions and iterating quickly is vital to innovate quickly and keep users engaged.”


How to make lean startup work for you

“The lean startup is great but it requires an agile team, funds to push through and tenacity to keep testing assumptions.”

“It’s a tough game when you think you have nailed something and the data shows otherwise,” admitted Hafiz. “Most companies try mini experiments over and over again until something sticks. The greatest benefit is the feeling of something working when you put the thought into a feature—and the struggle is the complete opposite. The key is to learn quickly and move on.”


Entrepreneurs, this one’s for you

In the ever-changing world of app development and using a lean startup approach, Hafiz has learned that staying agile is key. He wanted to share a few other things that he’s learned along the way.

  • “Don't be afraid to share the idea with as many people as you can. Getting feedback as early as possible will help you create a valuable MVP, keeping the early adopters engaged throughout the process.”
  • “Don't take things too seriously, no one hits a home run on the first try. Keep iterating and learn from the previous iterations.”
  • “Be agile in your approach to market and always work on solidifying your value prop.”
  • “Check the data and see how your product is performing. In the words of JayZ, ‘Men, lie. Women, lie. Numbers, don't.’”


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