SolDevelo created a community application for the members of EnVest. In this case study you will learn how the whole project began, what were the requirements and expectations, how our team approached the case, and what were the results. We will also explain why this project turned out to be a unique and valuable experience for us.
EnVest is an American community of environmental investors, including funds, family offices, corporate investors, individuals and venture philanthropists. Being committed to a shared vision, the EnVest members help each other, together building a thick net of connections, ideas, resources, deals, raises and events. Their mission is to invest in early-stage companies that are focused on protection of the natural environment, including reducing plastic pollution, improving water efficiency, mitigating the causes of climate change, accelerating transition to clean energy, and more. Companies presented at EnVest events have already raised over $1 billion.
The client needed a mobile application that would serve as a community platform for the members of EnVest. One of the most challenging aspects of the project was a short deadline that was required to be met in order for the project to be fully successful and also the lack of involvement from end users. In the following section we will explain what our team was requested to deliver, why the deadline was so short, and what were the reasons behind the whole operation.
To better understand the nature of this challenge, a few words of explanation are necessary. EnVest initiative was created 5 years ago, when a group of investors came together to share their knowledge, resources and connections, and to engage in environmental investments more effectively than they could ever do alone. EnVest members meet regularly at a big annual event, where they share their portfolio composed of the most promising environmental companies that are worth investing in. The chosen companies have a chance to present themselves at the event and grab the attention of new potential investors, whereas the EnVest members can keep track of the best investment opportunities in the environment sectors. Annual events also serve as a platform of communication between the investors, who can confront their plans and ideas, and together decide on the direction in which they want to go with this initiative.
Even though the initiative was successful for the past 5 years, the time has uncovered some challenges that needed to be faced. Up until now, EnVest members had no structuralized ways of communicating with each other. Everything was growing rather organically, and the information about events or raises reached members in various ways, via email, phone or other means of communication. Since investors are usually very busy and their time is limited, such a structureless community became not efficient enough to meet their needs.
To deal with the efficiency issue, Brock Mansfield, EnVest Managing Partner and Salmon Innovation Fund investor, came up with an idea to create an application for EnVest members that would replace other means of communication between them and become a one true source of all information connected to the initiative. With this idea he reached out to SolDevelo in hope that we could make his vision come to life. And we took up the challenge!
Expectations and requirements
We were requested to create a mobile community application for EnVest members that would allow them to:
- Register and log in,
- Assign themselves to specific funds,
- Add new portfolio items and update its information,
- Search for funds and companies by various data (e.g. sector, stage),
- Browse events and their agenda, and sign up to them,
- Browse news feed including companies’ updates, active raises and events,
- Browse other users’ news feeds.
However, as we have mentioned before, the most challenging requirement out of all turned out to be the tight deadline. We had to create an entire application from scratch in a month. Needless to say, we got down to work immediately.
How it all started
As we have previously mentioned, the whole project has started with Brock Mansfield’s vision of a community application for EnVest members. He reached out to SolDevelo mid-October. He shared his idea with us, and that’s how our cooperation began. However, what the client came up with was just that – an idea. We needed a lot more information in order to make this application a real, functional tool that will actually be helpful to the EnVest members.
How we approached the case
We began with a few intensive meetings with the client, full of detailed questions from our side. Since we did not receive much information about how exactly the application should be designed, it was our job to work it out with the client and help him clarify his vision. We approached the case comprehensively – from forming the idea, through business analysis, up to design and development. Together with the client we deeply examined all of the details and found answers to key questions. There were many things that needed to be considered. We took the role of not only designers, but also guides, maneuvering through the concepts and ideals to reach the expected result as closely as possible.
The task was especially difficult, since the application was to be designed without the participation of EnVest members, its future users. The reason for this was the client’s wish to present a finished application in the form of a surprise at this year’s event that was about to happen mid-November. Not being able to consult our plans with end users, we had to rely heavily on the information and feedback provided by the client, as well as on our own experience.
How we organized our work
Our team was composed of a Project Manager, a UI/UX Designer, a Quality Assurance Specialist and an outsourced Developer. We were also supported by an Enabling Team.
We met with the client every Monday to show the progress, review what was done and decide what the next steps should be. Every Tuesday our team held an internal meeting to discuss client’s feedback and plan how to apply it. From the very beginning we were following a detailed roadmap with specific milestones that guided us through the process, indicating what needs to be done when. We had very limited time for this project, so our team was highly focused on delivering everything according to the plan.
The client’s vision was constantly in the middle of shaping. It caused a lot of issues, since there were many unexpected changes to the design. However, we were determined to finish the application on time, and so we had to be highly decisive on what could be done at the moment, and what had to wait and be included in the future updates.
Struggles on our way
By the end of October most of the application’s main features were finished. At the beginning of November the application was nearly ready. We uploaded it on Google Play and App Store as soon as we could. While on Google Play the application was quickly accepted, we encountered an unexpected problem with the App Store that took a long time to review the application. It was especially important for us to have our product uploaded on the App Store, since iOS devices are widely used in the USA. Our application would be worthless to the end users, if they had no chance to download it easily. Eventually, the app passed the reviewing process on November 15th, just two days before the event in San Francisco, where we were about to introduce it to the community.
Our team arrived in San Francisco a few days before the big event that was scheduled on 16-17th November. A quite unusual aspect of this project was the fact that only when we visited our client on 14th, could he see the finished application with his own eyes and test it. At this point the app was still not available on the App Store, and so the client had no way to download it prior to our meeting. He requested a few more changes, and so we gave our all to apply these changes on time. Our outsourced developer stayed in Poland, and due to the time difference he had even less time to implement a bunch of required changes in order to deliver the updated version of the app as soon as possible. It was a tough few days (or more like a tough month in general), but we were determined to succeed. And we did!
Check out the full timeline of this project:
Login screen (left) and registration screen (right)
Thanks to the hard work of our team, as well as a great trust from the client, we have managed to deliver the fully functional product on time. A little bit of luck also played its part, as the newest version of our application passed the reviewing process and was released just hours before our presentation at the EnVest event in San Francisco.
The application has all of the features requested by the client, and is hoped to serve as an efficient source of information about the EnVest community, its members and all of the future news, raises and events. It is designed to be a platform of communication between the users, who now have a place to share knowledge and exchange deals on a daily basis, not only once a year.
Fund Profile screen (upper left), Company Profile screen (upper right), Events Calendar screen (lower)
Member Profile screen (left), User Profile screen (right)
The client’s feedback
When we met with the client in San Francisco, the first thing he expressed was how positively shocked he was with our team’s work. He was very satisfied with the end result and the time in which we managed to deliver the application.
We have built a great relationship based on trust and we are excited to work together on the future updates of the app.
Our visit in San Francisco
The annual event that we were lucky enough to participate in was a great chance for us to not only introduce ourselves and the effects of our intensive work, but also to finally meet the people for whom our application is designed, and get to know their problems and their needs. To help them get acquainted with our product, we’ve created flyers with QR codes:
Since the whole project was a surprise gift for the EnVest members, the event in San Francisco was the first chance to gather their thoughts on the idea to transform EnVest into a more structuralized community.
To our great relief, it turned out that most of the members present at the event were positive about the concept. EnVest members expressed their willingness to act in a more efficient and organized way. They want to connect with each other more often and share their knowledge, expertise, ideas and values.
It is very gratifying for us to know that the product we have been working so hard on has a great chance to help EnVest members in pursuing this new direction towards a structuralized community. We hope that it will allow them to be more effective, more connected, and to make even greater environmental investments in the future.
As for the event itself, it was a great experience for us to meet EnVest members and talk to them in person. It surprised us how many different kinds of people belong to this initiative, how varied their interests and the sectors of their investments are, and how, in the end, they all come together to make great things possible. It was a truly special time and we learned a lot.
This project was a unique one. As such, it generated a lot of unusual issues, but also helped us gain experience in new situations. We would like to share a few lessons that we have learned while working on the EnVest community application.
What we are proud of
One of the greatest achievements for us was delivering the finished product on time. Despite many struggles and challenges on our way, our high focus and strong determination allowed us to succeed. We have written thorough and detailed descriptions of each task in Jira, so that everyone knew exactly what they were working on and why. It helped us in reaching the goal. We have also appreciated weekly meetings with the client, as well as the ones within our own team. They allowed us to keep track of our work and stick to the right direction.
Another highly valuable aspect of this project was our relationship with the client. He entrusted us with his vision and gave us the freedom to make it come to reality. His openness to our ideas and suggestions made our work fast, efficient and pleasant.
Our team did a great job with asking the right questions and obtaining the right information from the client. It allowed us to reach a deep understanding of the scope of the project, despite not having any solid guidelines provided.
What needs improvement
- We encountered some issues with the work organization when it comes to Enabling Team, as well as the outsourced developer that was participating in the project. Those parts of our workflow were far from perfect, and we need to come up with more structuralized methods to smoothly handle such situations in the future.
- As for the work within our team, we noticed that it would be more efficient, if the app was simultaneously tested by the QA and checked by the UI/UX designer. It is a conclusion that we are planning to incorporate in our work in the future.
- We do not possess technology that is necessary for creating iOS applications. It resulted in many additional problems that could have been avoided with the right software.
- A big issue was the fact that the client could not test the application sooner. In the future we would like to consider possible solutions that can be applied in such situations. We were also aware that creating an application for the users, but without them was bearing a risk and that the app will require additional changes, once the users review it and give us their feedback. Since the whole project was a surprise for the community, we had no way to gather users’ opinions on the designing stage. However, it was a valuable learning experience and a reminder of how important the user participation is.
- And last but not least – we have learned that we can not control everything! Especially in a project such as this, where so many circumstances are unusual and require a certain level of adaptability. Some things, such as the unexpectedly long reviewing process on the App Store, just happen, and we will not be able to predict them. The sooner we make peace with this fact, the easier it will be to act accordingly to the situation.
Even though the application is finished, it still requires a lot of work in order to be adjusted to the user’s needs. Our suggestion is that the best next step would be to take some time and gather EnVest members’ feedback. We are planning to spend 2-3 months on intense work with the users, get to know what their needs and struggles are, and how we could effectively address them. Only then, after a deep and detailed investigation, can we move to the development stage, and apply changes and enhancements that will improve the effectiveness of the application.
SolDevelo is a dynamic software development and information technology outsourcing company focused on delivering high-quality software and innovative solutions. An experienced team of developers, customer-oriented service, and a passion for creating the highest quality products using the latest technology are the undeniable advantages of the company.
ISO 9001 confirms our dedication to the highest quality and ISO 27001 shows that we treat security extremely seriously. Over 70% of our team members are certified Scrum Professionals, over 35% are Oracle Certified Professionals and 100% of our quality assurance team has ISTQB certificates.
If you’re interested in our work, we invite you to read our other case studies.