One day at only 24 years old, my co-founders and I all quit our promising careers to work out of a basement and launch our own digital agency. We had no money, no clients and minimal networks.
What we did have though, was a strong belief that we could build a business on the notion of doing work differently. Mitch was a developer, James a designer and I a strategist.
With these varied skill sets, the word “differently” had a unique meaning for each of us. For me, it was built out of my passion for people. I wanted to create an environment, both physical and digital, where my team felt empowered to think differently and solve complex problems.
Although competing against established agencies with large project teams, after months of hard work, our client base started to grow at a rapid rate. And as we grew, our internal processes needed to change as well.
After trialling every project collaboration tool under the sun, we found ourselves frustrated with the constellation of different apps we’d need to streamline simple, intuitive business processes. So, we decided to design and build our own platform with the aim of giving ourselves more time to have conversations with each other, with our clients and to eliminate the red tape stuff.
I thought it was difficult to build a business. It’s even more difficult to launch a great product. Yet after nearly two years and many sleepless nights spent perfecting our product, we launched our internal tool Hassl as a public beta at last year’s TEDxMelbourne. Within a week we had thousands of users from all over the world and I was being asked to attend global conferences, such as Forbes Under 30 in Boston.
Now six months in with over 5,000 users from around the world, here are three lessons I’ve learnt launching a tech product:
Finding your people is vital.
Early on at conferences around the world we demoed to hundreds of users and spent time working through their individual use cases. This process taught us more than marketing personas ever could. As a business that practices and preaches people-centric design, it allowed us to design for the people we met, their situations and their particularities.
You can’t be everything to everyone.
Hassl is an idea you either love or hate — a digital workspace with minimal fluff. Our beta users have been fantastic, offering endless constructive feedback and asking for lots of new features. We make a point of referring back to our mission statement consistently to make sure we don’t end up with dreaded feature bloat.
Your product is still a business.
People need stories and faces. I thought going from business-to-business to business-to-consumer would mean separation from the business. But Hassl is a physical representation of our company’s mentality: getting things done, doing it well and designing for humans. And I quickly found that this story is what our users connect the most with.
In March this year, I was awarded Victorian Emerging Leader by the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. When the judges commented on my mindsets towards technology and leadership, I reflected that they are in fact, one and the same, and it has been a guide throughout my career: doing things differently.
Lauren Crystal is the co-founder and Managing Director of Your Creative, a full-service creative agency that focuses on human-centred design and development. In March, Lauren won the 2019 Telstra Victorian Business Women’s Emerging Leader Award. While running Your Creative, Lauren and the team became frustrated by the multiple tools it took to get things done. She co-founded Hassl, a project collaboration tool that streamlines everyday workflow, and is now recognised internationally. Believing that providing people with purpose is more important than profit, Lauren offers not-for-profit startups pro bono design and strategy work. In her spare time, she also volunteers as a mentor for student startup teams, teaching them how to communicate their ideas clearly.