Obu needed a trusted technical partner that could not only bring their concept to life but get their product to market quickly and then support them throughout the first 18-24 months of its lifecycle. This allowed them time to grow their business whilst considering whether to bring a product design and development team inhouse or not.
Just as we’d bought into their mission of closing the gender investment gap and making the startup ecosystem fairer for women, Obu bought into our beliefs and our agile approach to digital product development.
Aligned in our values from the get-go, we started with a period of discovery in the form of three workshops to make sure requirements gathering, user and technical research and platform architecture were covered.
We kicked off discovery with setting the scene with Obu’s brand vision, mission and value proposition to align the whole project team behind one north star goal. Doing so cements purpose and underpins our belief that the project team must go all in to achieve a successful outcome.
Then it was time to look at the business’ process flow maps which were separated into the angel and entrepreneur journeys for registration and login, and the raise lifecycle.
We brought all these into one end-to-end userflow diagram to bring clarity for the whole team and help map the user journey. Now it was clear what was done on and off-platform, where third party integrations were involved and what messaging via which channel the user would experience.
This in turn allowed us to write the epics and user stories to prioritise and estimate what was in scope for the MVP, what could go in the backlog, and validate (or adjust) the technical recommendations given previously.
At the end of discovery, we’d agreed the MVP scope and the must-haves for release one.
Agile and design thinking approach
Moving into the build phase, we adopted a phased approach that would deliver maximum value for both angels and entrepreneurs – and Obu itself. Breaking the project down into releases, starting with an MVP, means getting to market quickly with a product that meets users’ needs from the off. It also avoids a big upfront investment in features and functionality that aren’t actually needed, plus getting the product quickly in users’ hands means we learn directly from their feedback which influences future phases.
We progressed quickly through each phase, using a customer-centric, agile development process underpinned by design thinking methodology.
Right from the start, Obu knew that a product aimed at bringing equality to a manmade system needs to be designed inclusively for the women it serves.
In the UK, 86% of angel investors are men. 84% of financial advisers are men. And 94% of financial services CEOs are men. In sectors like financial services where there is a dominant male narrative, other customer groups can get overlooked.
It’s lazy design to assume products will serve women, without a genuine understanding of how their needs are different. Determined to disrupt this single-mindedness and the inequality of financial products, Obu wanted to design their platform with empathy for the women it serves.
“At Obu, we flip the design question. Instead of asking ‘how might we help you fit an existing product?’, we ask ‘how might we design our product for you?’. Inclusive design means understanding an audience’s life experience, aspirations and needs. We know a woman’s experience of money and wealth is very different to a man’s – and that difference presents an exciting opportunity to serve her better.”
Sarah King | CEO & Cofounder | Obu
In fact, during the first round of UAT, it became clear to Obu that parts of the onboarding experience were clunky for angels – there were too many on and off-platform handovers. Designing with women in mind is core to the angel and founder experience on this platform and not to be compromised, even when it meant pushing back the MVP launch date a little.
The original MVP scope was desktop-friendly only as that was where Obu’s audience would likely be when creating a raise as a founder or applying to be an angel investor. But as the UAT was underway and with Obu talking to more founders and angels in their community, it became apparent that the messaging function was likely to be used on mobile. It was a change that made absolute sense to accommodate so we moved quickly to design a mobile-friendly UX that would be part of the MVP when it launched.
Technical & data capture requirements
For the build, we took a microservices (sometimes known as a composable) approach to the tech stack underpinned by a cloud architecture to support the product roadmap. Each microservice addresses a single concern such as a data search, log in function or content management function. This approach increases flexibility, makes it easier to scale up or down, makes the code base straightforward to understand, allows updates to be released independently and increases the scope for isolated testing and innovation.
A huge driver in effecting change is gathering the data to evidence the need for that change – and to understand the progress being made. Data and insights are one of the key catalysts to innovation, because knowledge brings the power to disrupt the status quo – which is exactly what trailblazing is all about.
As well as being designed to fit the needs of women, the Obu investment platform (and the collective that sits alongside it) is designed to continually collect data and insights to support its evolution and keep improving the landscape for women entrepreneurs.
Obu are signatories of the Investing in Women Code (IIWC) – which stemmed from the first Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, published in 2019 by Alison Rose, now CEO of NatWest, who’d been commissioned by the Treasury to look at the barriers to entrepreneurship that women face, and how to overcome them.
In signing the code, Obu is committed to increasing transparency in their own data on the support provided to women entrepreneurs.