Lifetramp: Building a mission-driven startup
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Lifetramp: Building a mission-driven startup

Worked on
startup
design
product strategy
leadership
👀
TL;DR: I was one of the co-founders at Lifetramp. Our platform allowed people to try a different job for a day with a mentor they could find through it - think “Airbnb for jobs”. The community growth absolutely exploded and exceeded our expectations, we got featured all over the place, we had our own TV show with Planete, but eventually failed to secure enough funding and revenue to keep it running at the scale it needed. Sometimes I still miss working on this.
Scope
Design, Product Management, Success metrics, Prototyping
Tools & methods
User interviews, Contextual inquiry, Concierge MVP, Sketch, HTML/CSS, some JavaScript
Team
3 co-founders, full stack engineer, community management team
My role
As a co-founder responsible for design and product things, I developed the visual identity, initial design system and interface design and led the user research and product initiatives.

Problem

  • We once looked into satisfaction at work while working on some other things and realized that 80% of people are unhappy where they are in life.
  • What if you could spend a day doing something else that you always wanted to do?

Pre-launch

I designed and launched a simple landing page for measuring initial interest about our idea. The goal was to collect some initial data on whether the idea can actually gain some traction and which jobs - and where - people would like to try.
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This simple page got featured in a lot of places, including some mainstream media outlets, that helped us gain a couple of thousand data points, initial traction we looked for, and gather lots of interesting insights into where we should focus our initial efforts.

(Concierge) prototyping the path

Before a pixel was put on a mockup or a line on a paper, we've run a couple of concierge MVP type meetings in which we would manually look up and connect potential mentors with people who wanted to try their job for a day. This turned out to be successful, and also exposed some of potential problems that we have to tackle before launching the platform.

Design

We went through multiple iterations of the platform design, working backwards from the user’s goals and jobs, while also borrowing from the best practices we have seen at other marketplaces (Booking, Amazon, Airbnb) and continuously testing with our initial group of early adopters. After a couple of iterations, we settled on card-based design with filters on the side because that hit the sweet spot between being visually appealing while also giving the users maximum functionality they wanted.
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My work here went all the way across the product stack - from defining the feature set and product initiatives we want to try, establishing the MVP of those, as well as understanding the user journeys and designing the interfaces, and even writing most of the CSS for the interface. The design stage was a lot of trial and error, with a lot of great feedback, thanks to our involved group of early adopters that we gathered from our concierge MVP and our initial form.

Launch

We launched the platform after a couple of months of building and experimenting. The overwhelming majority of our early adopters expected to find mentors, sorted by nearest, in jobs they were interested in - so that what it was. Initially in English, we almost instantly started working on translating the platform into languages where the biggest clusters of our users were (namely Polish and Brazilian Portuguese):
 
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Challenges

“Why should I trust this?”

Just like Airbnb, we initially ran into the “I’m a bit afraid to go to a random person from the internet and do things with them” problem. We went about the problem in a couple of ways - first, we built in a review system that allowed us to maintain the community at a certain standard of quality. We also made sure to keep tabs on what’s going on in the community, give people a way to quickly come back with the feedback or complaints using our social media, and we kept iterating on messaging and design to “humanize” the platform, trying to find what increases both trust and conversion rates.
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Monetizing the community

Very early on, we ran into the issue of funding the exploding growth of the platform. Even though we had some initial angel investment, we were running out of money quickly and needed to create a business.

Corporate partnerships

One of the early attempts at making money was creating corporate partnerships, in which organizations around the world could pay to have mentors featured on our platform. That would help us get some early revenue, and them with their employer branding and hiring. Some early adopters were Sephora, who allowed people to learn about professional set and stage make-up, and WizzAir, which ran our mentees through a Cabin Crew experience:
 
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Paid experiences

We experimented briefly with paid experiences - the simplest model, in which mentors would get paid for their time, and we would take a cut. Unfortunately, it turns the mentorship experience from something people want to do to a job with commitments, and our mentors very rapidly started moving away from the model.

NGO collaborations

In the light of mentors not wanting to be paid, we also experimented with a model in which the mentor picks an NGO they want to support, and the money goes directly to the NGO, with us still taking the cut to sustain the platform. That was welcomed very warmly by the community (doing good while doing good) but eventually got mired in a swamp of legal and tax implications.

TV show

At some point in our journey we got approached by Planete, a Polish subsidiary of the French CANAL+ network, to work with them on creating a sort of documentary TV show in which they would pick one of the experiences that people had on our platform and create an episode out of it. We happily agreed and thus, Lifetramp: Życie Na Próbę (Lifetramp: Trying A Life) was born. Two seasons were made, you can still watch it on Player.pl - one of the Polish VoD services.

Lessons learned

  • Startups are hard - even with users going into tens of thousands, we struggled to monetize at a level that would sustain the platform and its ongoing growth
  • Culture of constant experimentation and ongoing user feedback - about business models, product offering, and messaging - allowed us to sustain the platform for a long time even on scrappy budgets
  • Building a mission-driven community of like-minded people is great - our users would happily test things for us, and help us as much as they can because they believed in our vision and mission
  • Having balance is paramount - this is one of those projects that I poured my heart and soul into, and still ended up having to wrap it up, as the constant grind was also taking its toll on my mental health