Glide

Client:                                         Citi Ventures

Organization / Institution:               Parsons School of Design

Role:                                           Co - Strategist 

Collaborators:                               Aryanna Martin, Mehul Sharma, Sundar Subramanian

Location:                                      New York 

Context

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.

Deliverables

Research report

Strategy pitch

Solution prototype

Validated business model

Project report

Pitch deck

Timeline

16 Weeks ( Feb 2018 - May 2018 )

Key Contribution

Design research

Futures and foresighting

Synthesis and concept generation

Workshop facilitation

Business design

Brand strategy

Growth planning

PROJECT SNAPSHOT

The Challenge

"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."

Our Approach 

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.

Solution

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. 

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Value Addition

Current average monthly software subscription cost for a graphic design freelancer.

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$20.99/month

$12 /month

$9.99 /month

$15 /month

$99.99 /month

Monthly Subscription Cost: $156.98

Lock in period: 1 month - 1 year

Cumulative monthly software usage cost with Glide

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3 weeks

2 weeks

2 weeks

4 days

1 week

Cumulative Monthly Usage Cost: $50 (approx)

Lock in period: None

 
 

HOW WE GOT THERE

METHODOLOGY SELECTION

The design thinking methodology was chosen for its ability to distill and uncover qualitative insights amidst the complexity and ambiguity surrounding the gig economy. 

DISCOVERY

 

RESEARCH

Research Process

SECONDARY RESEARCH:

Understanding

the landscape 

 Buzz Report

- News

- Studies

- Opinions

- Trends

- Literature Reviews 

Landscape Mapping

- Stakeholder Map

- Ecosystem Map

- Pain point Map

Systems Thinking

- 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."

In-depth Interviews

- 7 Subject Matter Experts

- 11 Freelancers

PRIMARY RESEARCH:

Uncovering Latent Needs

Research Report

Field Research

Activities

Environments

- Interactions

- Objects

- Users

Surveys

- 67 Freelancers

- 5 Countries

SYNTHESIS

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. 

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Key Problem Spaces Identified

'TELLING YOUR STORY WELL'

'CREATING A STANDOUT PRESENCE'

 'BUILDING CREDENTIALS'

 

'MANAGING REPUTATION'

SELF BRANDING

'FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY'

'VOLATILE NATURE OF JOBS'

SUSTAINING
BETWEEN
GIGS

'UNCLEAR DELIVERABLE'

'PRICE NEGOTIATIONS'

'MANAGING EXPECTATIONS'

'DELAYED PAYMENTS'

MANAGING
CLIENT
RELATIONS

 

 

'LACK OF BENEFITS AND SUBSIDIES'

'HIGH COST STRAIN FOR TOOLS AND SOFTWARE'

ACCESSING
AFFORDABLE
BENEFITS
AND 
WORK TOOLS

'DISDAIN FOR HIERARCHY'

'LONELINESS'

'UNAFFORDABLE COMMUNITY SPACES'

BEING
AUTONOUMOUS
VS
COLLABORATING

'MANAGING MULTIPLE JOBS'

'DISCIPLINE'

IMPROVING EFFICIENCY
AND PRODUCTIVITY

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. 

Sensemaking Workshop

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 Setting the Context 

 Role Play  

 Ranking Painpoints 

 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?

DEVELOPMENT

 

IDEATION

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. 

Ideation Workshop

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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.

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NEED FOR AFFORDABLE ACCESS TO SOFTWARE AND TOOLS

Concept Generation

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,

PROTOTYPING

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

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Round 3 - Interactive Multimedia Prototypes (click to explore)

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TESTING + BUILDING

 

TESTING

USER DESIRABILITY 

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

Offline Voting

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Intercepts

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Instagram Ads + Prototype Website Footfalls

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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. 

Key feedback 

- 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. 

 

Technical Feasibility 

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.

Service Blueprint

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Business Viability

Our initial business viability study highlighted a strong market potential for this concept.

Business Model Canvas

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Financial Projection

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Market Landscape

Branding 

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

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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

Detailed Project Report