In late 2017, we were approached Jacob Chaney, Roomsie’s CEO. He spoke to us about the project and the multitude of challenges he was dealing with. Roomsie was a project long-time in the making and over the past couple of years various development teams failed to deliver a working product.
It pained us to hear this since Jacob is a brilliant entrepreneur who runs a thriving local business that helps interns find housing in Washington D.C. This makes him an ideal founder of a company that’s looking to solve the same problem on a bigger scale.
At the time we met, the project burn rate was high, since the current design & development team was sourced from an expensive talent agency. The team was having major issues, especially with the front-end part of the application; the progress was slow and the delivered features were buggy and unpolished. Jacob was looking for someone to take ownership of the development process and to make sure features were properly built, tested, and delivered on time.
Indentifying the problems
We spent the first ten days inspecting the codebase and observing the development process. We spoke with all team members together but also individually, trying to understand their point of view and identify the underlying source of the problems.
We found several issues including but not limited to:
- Lack of technical expertise of some team members
- A complex dev management process led by people who don’t know how to manage projects, on a project that doesn’t require a complex process in the first place
- Multiple developers working on same features and stepping on each others toes
- Lack of feature ownership, no one was held responsible for failing to deliver
- We wrote a lengthy report, spoke to Jacob about our findings, and even hired an established D.C. based consultant to offer a second opinion on the state of the project.
Within a week, we downsized the design & development team from 5 contractors down to 2.
Since not much of the application was built and the delivered features were ridden with bugs, we opted for a complete rewrite. It turned out to be a good decision because in the following couple of months, we delivered more working features than the previous teams delivered during the past couple of years.
We held daily stand up meetings to make sure everyone was informed and knew what was happening at all times. Jacob gave us valuable insights into the nitty-gritty details of his industry, while we guided him through the development process and made sure he was aware of pros and cons of each development related decision.
After a couple more months of work, we were ready to stealth-launch the first version of Roomsie and start testing with early users.
Validating the product market fit
Before going live, we implemented a custom Mixpanel and Hotjar analytics setup to better understand how people use the product. We listed a couple dozen properties and did some small scale marketing to attract the first batch of early users.
Within days, we received our first booking request and it went through. Within weeks, we already had $XXX,XXX in revenue.
We spent a lot of time talking with our early users in an effort to understand them and gather valuable feedback. We also embraced a data-driven approach to developing new features and improving the existing ones.
The path forward
With the first version of the product completed, the focus has shifted from development to growing the user base. We are still involved and will help with maintenance and future hiring efforts.
Building Roomsie with Jacob was pure joy. It was one of those awesome moments where the needs of the client perfectly overlapped with our own expertise, allowing us to inject heaps of value into the project.