When I first set up my very own fintech in 2016, I had never heard of Design Sprints. And I had no idea that this tool would revolutionize the way I work today. So, I would like to share my way from being a fintech founder to a real Design Sprint enthusiast with you. It’s a bit of a fuck-up story and success story in one.
Back in 2016, I was already driven by the idea of building a business that would bring real benefits to the customers and, together with my partners, launched FinGym. FinGym, a platform for financial fitness, would activate people to manage their money and raise their quality of life.
After 12 months of self-funding and developing our own digital product, we realized that the process we used to build FinGym no longer worked for us. The result wasn’t satisfying at all. We had rather unsuccessfully published an online course—which only enrolled 36 individuals—and would not help us reach our goals in building the platform. We were a year into our company, we didn’t have a usable platform and our disappointing online course was more like a collection of compromises. We had plenty of ideas, but always lost focus and were unable to decide where to start. Classic “analysis paralysis.” We assumed we knew what the problems were, but in reality we had no concrete data to support these assumptions. We were frustrated. And we were out of time.
I’ll tell you honestly , it was very hard to realize that the FinGym business model didn’t work. I felt stuck because I was still burning for FinGym but I also knew that it couldn’t go on like this. So a solution had to be found. We needed a tool to get validated results, faster.
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Henry Ford
I miraculously stumbled upon the book Sprint by Jake Knapp where he introduced the Google Ventures Design Sprint method and it changed everything for us! It was time for us to perform our very own Design Sprint for FinGym. It was time for starting a hackathon instead of a guessathon.
The Design Sprint process – What is a Design Sprint?
A Design Sprint is an user-oriented process that solves problems by designing, prototyping and testing ideas with real users before investing time and money in fully developing an idea. It helps to make decisions based on validated results (data!), especially when you feel stuck and the next steps are not clear. And it’s all done in just 5 days.
It sounded like the perfect tool for our situation! So I blocked a week in our calendar, brought our team together, interviewed experts and our first Design Sprint was underway.
It was an amazing experience to get results so quickly after the endless development processes of the past year. Instead of long discussions, meetings and brainstorming sessions, we had validated ideas and a clear plan of action after just 5 days. I think it was this accelerated and defining structure of the Design Sprint that helped us so much.
After one Design Sprint week, we had a clear action plan for FinGym and an empowered team. No discussions, only solutions. But the real added value for me was the Design Sprint method itself. It was simply amazing how we were able to achieve more in a week than we did in a year. So we put FinGym on hold and jumped into a brand new field of business. We founded NEON Sprints and quickly signed our first contracts with big clients like Deutsche Bahn, Flaconi, Siemens Gamesa and Vontobel helping them to professionally use Design Sprints in their organization. Today we are the number one go-to Design Sprint expert provider in the German speaking area and train individuals and companies in Design Sprints. We are also part of (and leaders in) the global Design Sprint expert community and continuously exchange knowledge, adjust and improve the method. We are often asked to speak at conferences to present our modifications and learnings from the methods and love converting teams to Sprinters!
I have tried a lot of different tools with the team at FinGym and of course made a lot of mistakes, because I never knew how to validate ideas quickly. Today it is no longer important to have a good product, you have to have the right product. Right from the start.
The Design Sprints process worked so well for us, if I had started this way right away, my fintech would have gone in a different direction, and we would have saved lot of development time and money. My biggest learning to share with you is to definitively prototype and test every idea as quickly as possible. You don’t have to run a full Design Sprint for doing so, one testing day is often enough.
If you run a Design Sprint, you’ll save a ton of money and time in product development. You might not get the result you were hoping for, but it will definitely be worth it. Just try it. All you have to lose is your old methods.