Client: Citi Ventures
Organization / Institution: Parsons School of Design
Role: Co - Strategist
Collaborators: Aryanna Martin, Mehul Sharma, Sundar Subramanian
Location: New York
The rise of the gig economy is altering the way we view and perform work. In 2017 it was estimated that 36% of the U.S workforce was engaged in freelance work.
The Citi Group's global corporate venturing arm
'Citi Ventures' keenly observes this trend with the aim of determining opportunity spaces within this sector.
The CUPID program challenge
The Citi University Partnerships in Innovation and Discovery (CUPID) program engaged the students of the Strategic Design and Management program at Parsons School of Design to uncover new business opportunities, generate and test new concepts and to develop functional prototypes and business models.
Validated business model
16 Weeks ( Feb 2018 - May 2018 )
Futures and foresighting
Synthesis and concept generation
"Identify a hair on fire problem faced by freelancers, design and develop an innovative business solution that is financially viable, desirable for freelancers and technically feasible."
The challenge was approached through 3 distinct phases:
1. Discovering a tangible, high priority, unmet need faced by a targeted group of freelancers.
2. Developing a business solution that meets this need, while also providing value to all other stakeholders.
3. Testing and validating the business solution with all potential stakeholders and iterate based on their feedback.
Findings & Opportunities
Without the protection of an employer, freelancers have to navigate the complex work ecosystem on their own. This means finding clients, building their network, paying for their own insurance and paying for a plethora of softwares and tools that are essential for delivering quality work. The volatile nature of their income flows demand smarter financial choices and obtain maximum value from the expenses that they make.
Glide; A payments platform that provides freelancers with the flexibility to access popular and rising software on a pay-per-use model. The platform unburdens freelancers from either signing up for multiple subscriptions or compromising with limited free trail versions. Additionally, freelancers gain the ability to test new and alternative full featured softwares.
For Software providers, Glide provides a viable business model to attract the freelance sector by providing the opportunity to convert a large number of free trial users into paying customers.
Current average monthly software subscription cost for a graphic design freelancer.
Monthly Subscription Cost: $156.98
Lock in period: 1 month - 1 year
Cumulative monthly software usage cost with Glide
Cumulative Monthly Usage Cost: $50 (approx)
Lock in period: None
HOW WE GOT THERE
The design thinking methodology was chosen for its ability to distill and uncover qualitative insights amidst the complexity and ambiguity surrounding the gig economy.
- Literature Reviews
- Stakeholder Map
- Ecosystem Map
- Pain point Map
- Organizing Pain points in a Systems Map
- Mapping Leverage Points
- Identifying Point of Intervention
Framing Research Objective
"Understand the problems faced by millennial freelancers in accessing healthcare and managing their finances."
- 7 Subject Matter Experts
- 11 Freelancers
Uncovering Latent Needs
- 67 Freelancers
- 5 Countries
Our research led us to a vast collection of survey data points, observations, stories and behavioral motivations.
Using abductive affinity mapping techniques, we were able to identify and cluster hidden patterns and hierarchies under distinct themes and personas.
Key Problem Spaces Identified
'TELLING YOUR STORY WELL'
'CREATING A STANDOUT PRESENCE'
'VOLATILE NATURE OF JOBS'
'LACK OF BENEFITS AND SUBSIDIES'
'HIGH COST STRAIN FOR TOOLS AND SOFTWARE'
'DISDAIN FOR HIERARCHY'
'UNAFFORDABLE COMMUNITY SPACES'
'MANAGING MULTIPLE JOBS'
PROBLEM SPACE DEFINITION
We used open brainstorming methods to re-frame our insights. A sensemaking workshop with 7 freelancers from different industries helped us gain critical perspectives on our Insights and finally helped us prioritize and define key problem statements.
Setting the Context
Crafting 'How Might We' Statements
How Might We..
Help freelancers collaborate on projects with other freelancers?
Help freelancers find more work to sustain them financially in between gigs?
Provide cost efficient access to software and other tools?
Prevent freelancers from getting underpaid by clients?
Provide more affordable benefits for freelancers?
A blue sky ideation workshop was conducted with a transdisciplinary team to approach this problem space from multiple directions. Each participating team was challenged to solve for problems faced by a specific persona, backed by journey maps, pain point charts and interview footage.
The Ideas were clustered, ranked and then plotted on a 2X2 value horizon matrix to map out its potential in terms of customer value and disruption. We noticed a recurring pattern of ideas around providing affordable and flexible access to software and tools, which strongly resonated with our research findings.
NEED FOR AFFORDABLE ACCESS TO SOFTWARE AND TOOLS
In order to bring down the cost of software and tools for freelancers, we came up with 3 ideas
1. Group buying for software subscriptions - Demand based software pricing.
2. Friends plan to software subscriptions - Software bundling subsidized by a collective of freelancers.
3. Pay per use model for subscriptions - Pricing based on usage,
We created quick prototypes of these ideas and conducted 3 rounds UX feedback sessions to help us see what these ideas could look like. This was followed by a co-creation workshop with freelancers, who used this prototype as a prompt to build out solutions that they would like to see in the market.
Round 1 - Sketches
Round 2 - Paper Prototypes
Round 3 - Interactive Multimedia Prototypes (click to explore)
TESTING + BUILDING
In order to narrow down to one idea, we conducted a series of activities to test the market desirability of each idea.
Prototype Testing with Freelancers
Instagram Ads + Prototype Website Footfalls
Final Chosen Concept
The Pay per use model for subscription resonated the most with the users. The testing process also helped us gain critical feedback about each idea.
- A short term subscription service were preferred over a time bound pay per use model.
- Consolidate software bundles to aid freelancer workflow.
- A uniform login experience was preferred while accessing multiple software.
In order to ascertain the technical feasibility of the short term subscription model, we consulted with a wide range of technical experts;
IT consultants, software engineers and developers.
It was ascertained that the best way forward was to develop a service that generates a unique token that activates short term subscriptions for software companies using the login of the product that we were developing.
Post consulting with a legal expert it was decided to conduct business as an official reseller of our software partners.
Our initial business viability study highlighted a strong market potential for this concept.
Business Model Canvas
Through a branding exercise we arrived at the name 'glide' and chose a Flying Squirrel as our brand mascot to evoke our brand values; freedom, flexibility and ease.
Final Product Prototype
Feedback from the Industry
Glide received a very encouraging feedback from stakeholders from the industry.
"It's a great idea. I would totally use this instead of having to pay for all the software separately" - Valla Vakili , Head of Ventures Studio at Citi Ventures
"If the freelance market grows, we might have to re look our strategy. This might be the way ahead for us in the future"
- Senior Adoption Program Manager for one of the top three leading SaaS companies globally
"I see a lot of potential in aggregation. Companies would be interested in knowing or comparing their products with others through this platform"
- Former CTO of a leading design SaaS firm
"Our conversion rates are pretty low. This could improve our conversion rates" -
Customer Success Manager for a popular web-based infographic application