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A look back over the journey taken by Tawipay.com, price comparison website for international money transfer services, from its beginnings at Startup Weekend Lausanne to its launch. Written by Francois Briod. 

After the Startup Weekend

Pitching, finding partners, developing a concept, putting oneself to the test, pitching again, drinking a few beers to celebrate all that and then promising oneself to keep on developing the idea.  It all flashes by too fast to be able to prepare for what comes after.

This wasn’t my first Startup Weekend, so I knew that the euphoria and intensity during the weekend are swiftly replaced by disillusion when the weekend is over.

Not winning the Startup Weekend may be what gave us the desire to carry on and prove that the concept was a valid one, or maybe we were just hooked on the idea and its enormous potential social impact.  Whatever it was, encouraged by the positive feedback, the whole team was on board when the first emails were exchanged, and the project was finally launched.

Keeping the Rhythm 

Since the team is separated geographically (between Lausanne, Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland, and Madrid in Spain), the first tasks were to organize ourselves into a team (based on our individual skill sets) and to hold a video conference every week, even if we had been unable to do anything since the previous week.  We needed to be lean enough to test our hypotheses and assess whether it was worth continuing and to really focus on even the tiniest advance to stay motivated.

Everything was done to encourage personal initiative and to avoid any structure (in terms of hierarchy and decision making) that might slow us down or discourage us.  The strategy seems to be a success.  There were seven of us at the Startup Weekend and now there are eight of us, since a developer from another team joined us.

Showing Vs. Telling

Given that we were all working on the project in our free time, in a new environment and with a degree of uncertainty, it was clear that our investigations would need to be tested before going any farther.

Would anybody be interested in our price comparison website? Would we ever be able to find partners to generate revenue? What would be the cost of the kind of traffic we were targeting?  Was the business model viable?

This is where our prototype website came into play: a simple simulation of the features of the price comparison website that we want to implement.

homepage-laptop-500px

This first prototype allowed us to carry out tests from the marketing and conversion rate point of view. With ~ 200€ in vouchers for various advertising services (Facebook ads, Adwords, Bing ads and LinkedIn), we were able to see which messages were most effective. In addition, we saw the percentage of people carrying out searches and were able to analyse the data from those searches and get an initial contact with potential users by collecting their email addresses.In addition, a prototype is, in my opinion, much more effective than any presentation or executive summary when it comes to contacting potential partners.

Execution, execution and execution!

Armed with what we have learned and our development work, we are now ready to present the first operational version of our comparison service for sending money abroad. It is quite interesting to compare the presentation that we gave at the end of the Startup Weekend with our first version. The concept, business model and comparison module are very similar.

Photoshop-to-website-comparison-2.0-e1377007027762
Left, the photoshop file used during the Startup Weekend, right the actual TawiPay’s website.

 

Tools/services used

WordPress for the prototype (Use Wix or Squarespace if you don’t know how to code)
Google analytics
Podio for communication and our organisation
Gotomeeting to hold meetings of 8 people without wasting 40 minutes setting up
Hootsuite to manage access to the different social networks
Odesk or Fairlink to outsource certain tasks
Rewardli for discounts and coupons
Google drive and dropbox for sharing files
Facebook ads and graph search to quantify your market according to specific demograhpics
Google trends and keyword tools to analyze trends and your user’s habits on search engines

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