The Dishcover story: Part II
Our first steps towards problem-solution fit
This is the second part of our series of blog posts about our first entrepreneurial journey with Dishcover. We will write about our ride in 2020 and our plans for the future. This may help future founders to learn from our mistakes and keep you updated on issues that Dishcover has been dealing with.
Everything Has Changed: The Covid-19 Pandemic
It was March 2020 when Covid-19 came to Europe — and one of the biggest shutdowns that the world ever experienced. Everyday life suddenly came to a standstill. Restaurants needed to close and people had to stay at home. So did we. Our plan to test our value proposition in the center of Lisbon was gone. Restaurants had to close for 50 days from March to May 2020. The hospitality sector was — and still is — heavily affected. No tourists. No guests. No service. On a year-over-year basis, the daily change in seated restaurant diners declined between -100% to -10% in 2020 (Statista).
Especially in Portugal, where the hospitality sector is one of the most important economic building blocks, the pandemic brought bad consequences. The unemployment rate jumped to 34.5% in October, with 72% previously working in the hospitality and retail sectors (Fodors).
Validating Under New Conditions: From Offline to Online
We had to become creative to test and validate our value proposition. It was obvious that we had to switch from offline to online testing and were not able to test end-to-end conversion rates due to the lockdown. Therefore, we set up a low-fidelity MVP using the survey tool Typeform. Test users could like or dislike dishes of selected restaurants in Lisbon. We then analyzed the results for every group manually and sent their “Match” via WhatsApp. After a few days, we sent a second survey where participants could provide feedback and recommendations.
We received highly valuable and positive feedback — the app seemed to solve a real problem. We tested different use cases like business lunch, a dinner with friends, or family dinners. According to the data we gathered, the use case “dinner with friends” seemed to be the most promising one. Fun fact: we also tested a second product version that included a dating algorithm based on preferences for restaurants. However, the results were not as good. Although there were some matches, a date never took place (as far as we know).
Now that we seemed to have identified a use case for that we could provide value, we knew that it was time to build a high-fidelity MVP and measure its success based on real conversions, i.e., restaurant bookings. So, it was our next challenge to find a cheap and easy way to build an autonomously working mobile app.
Measuring E2E Conversions: Setting Up a New Experiment
In the middle of the pandemic, we did some research to find a tool for building a high-fidelity MVP. In the beginning, we thought about investing the time to learn the required developer skills ourselves. Reality quickly brought us (we’ve been two Management students working on a tech product, remember?) back down to earth. However, during our research, we discovered the no-code software Glide Apps. Glide proved to be the perfect tool for building an app without writing a single line of code based on Google Sheets.
With a developed mobile app MVP in hands, we were able to test problem-solution fit. While building our first real product, we set up the experiment and the corresponding launch. In September, restaurants opened again and that’s why we thought it would be a great idea to launch the MVP as soon as a large number of students would move to the Lisbon to do Erasmus or start their master’s. To attract these students, we developed an ambassador program. We looked for well-connected students of the biggest universities in Lisbon to become our ambassadors and arrange dinners with their friends. For each reservation made by the ambassador, they would get a free main dish at our partner restaurants.
Getting the First Restaurants Onboard: Preparations for the Launch
For that, we established partnerships with 10 restaurants in Lisbon and placed them in the app. For us, it was not about earning money — especially after the hard times the restaurants had been going through — but about testing the product. Thus, we decided to not charge the restaurants for bookings. Instead, we asked them to give a free dish to our ambassadors whenever they organized a group dinner. By that, we could incentivize the ambassadors to test the product while keeping our marketing budgets super tight.
Read Part III to find out how the experiment turned out and the Dishcover story continued.