A Smartphone App: {novice || experienced}

{novice || experienced} is a prototype that is testing the way mentors identify teachable novice entrepreneurs. This smartphone app provides a simple text box where the novice entrepreneur may submit a business problem they're tackling. The software then places the entrepreneur's question in a public digital space allowing any mentor to engage in answering the question. The current prototype exists at the following url: thesisprototype.appspot.com.

Jay Shah and Mike Krupit, both experienced entrepreneurs turned mentors, pointed out that they identify teachable novice entrepreneurs by the questions they ask. In his own words, Jay said, “It’s important to be able to tell the difference between an entrepreneur that knows his or her blind spots and is willing to ask for help and an entrepreneur that doesn’t. I tell the difference by listening and asking questions. And I think to be able to tell the former from the latter depends on the questions they ask.” This is a piece of data I needed to test first hand with the prototype {novice || experienced}. Essentially, I needed to test: if mentors identify teachable novice entrepreneurs by the questions they ask, then would entrepreneur be open to receiving advice and feedback if they pose the problem they're tackling in a question format.

Furthermore, having observed many interactions at networking events held by organizations like Philly Tech Meetup and Philly Startup Leaders, I had noticed that many entrepreneurs carry smart phones and use them to organize their schedules. I interpreted this piece of cultural information as smart phones are an appropriate channel to use to build a prototype that tests a question-answer format for business feedback. In this image you can see Balu and Lenny exchanging calendar information at Philly Tech Meetup.

I set out to design the proposed interaction. The following images shows the process from rough sketches, to information architecture, to trees organizing user flow, to hand-drawn wireframes, to mockups, and finally to a working prototype.


Organizing User Flow


Backend Software Structure

Working Prototype
After building this prototype, I implemented it at Philly Tech Meetup by making business card size fliers informing the entrepreneurs of this new tool.

While going through the networking event, I spoke with and handed out fliers to roughly twenty people. Of those twenty people, three checked it out and one person left a question after the networking event was over. They asked, "Should I meet investors with traction data but no revenue model proven yet?" Without running more tests with this prototype at networking events, it's difficult to know why the one entrepreneur left a question after the networking event was over and didn't submit the question during the networking event.

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