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Daplie

Note: All UI and hardware design files are owned by ClearFoundation. Included on this page are publicly-accessible marketing artifacts.

Context

In the beginning of 2017, Daplie was a personal server company focused on helping people "connect without the cloud." Between an Indiegogo campaign, a simultaneous equity crowdfunding campaign on WeFunder, and a private $400,000 pre-sale, Daplie had raised $1.5 million in the first four months of the year.



Desired Outcome: In May, 2017, I was hired to be Daplie's UI dev team lead to deliver on the crowdfunding campaign promises.

Within three weeks of joining, it became clear that I was surrounded by very talented people who collectively had two skill gaps: product leadership and user experience design. I knew this because:

  • Several features were being worked on simultaneously at varying levels of completion.
  • At the rate of progress, we weren't going to complete the features promised in the crowdfunding campaigns on any reasonable timeline.
  • The features were being developed more on the whim of the CTO day to day than based on any deliberated product planning.
  • Everyone had a different understanding of who their customers were and what features they wanted most.
  • The software agency hired to design all Daplie UI did so in complete isolation of the customers.



Process Taken

Without confidence that what I was developing was the right solutions, I knew I needed to drive changes beyond my role. That would require gaining trust from the team.


Step 1: Transition to Scrum

I accomplished this in the following steps:

  1. A well-articulated email to the CEO about the differences of agile and waterfall pointing out all the evidence I had that we were developing in true-to-form waterfall
  2. Inspired the CEO to read Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
  3. Spent three full days locked in a room with the CEO and CTO learning about every detail of every feature planned and prepared a backlog
  4. Held a team meeting about transitioning to scrum with the CEO acting as Product Owner and me as Scrum Master
  5. Kicked off our first sprint

Process Outcomes:

  • Features developed were based on prior sprint's planning
  • Developers enjoyed predictable days of work and greater focus


Step 2: Introduced User Research & Drastically Reduced Scope

I accomplished this in the following steps:

  1. I pointed out to everyone the undebatable truths that:
    • we were going to run out of funding before delivering on every feature promised
    • everyone's understanding about who our customers were was different
    • everyone's assumptions about what the customers wanted most was different
    • we needed to prioritize our work around what the customers needed most
    • all our UI design was done with zero user research or external usability testing
  2. I introduced the concept of user-centered design and got team buy-in for everyone's involvement in a user personas campaign.
  3. Organized a user personas research campaign with everyone interviewing a fraction of the 30 recruited customers.
  4. Created these personas.

Outcomes:

  • Team wide understanding about who, exactly, our customers and what their pains, needs, and desires were
  • File storage became known company-wide as the number one needed feature
  • Cut out nice-to-have features that would have either amounted to either failure or millions of dollars/ years of execution
  • Complete buy-in on how features were being prioritized in the backlog


Step 3: Reset the Design Process

The UX process was established internally in the following ways:

  1. Lead Daplie’s first week-long design sprint with the executive team and board members
  2. Completely redesigned the file storage application after the design was proven unusable (even though it was aesthetically impressive)
  3. Designed and usability tested a system set up experience
  4. Once low-fidelity designs were validated, we outsourced the UI design to a new agency

Outcome:

  • I was promoted to Head of Experience Design





Step 4: Positioned The Daplie Connect for Blockchain and Web 3

By end of 2017, it was becoming clear that there was a lot of traction to be gained with blockchain projects. The Daplie servers were a strategic counterpart to the decentralized applications gaining a lot of hype. The CEO and I positioned ourselves in the following ways:

  • Discontinued all in-house software development with the exception of Daplie’s core files app, peer-to-peer connectivity (to enable decentralized internet infrastructure), and software development kit (to host third party created applications)
  • Helped define the DapCoin ecosystem which utilizes cryptoeconomics to supercharge the third party application community
  • Implemented integration with ClearOS
  • Convinced the company to adopt a fully open-source hardware strategy (despite having three pending patents) in order to stimulate the DapCoin ecosystem with more hardware companies (see video below for context)
  • Evangelized the product direction.

Outcomes:

  • Received first acquisition offer from Clear Foundation
  • Successful traction gained at biggest blockchain conference of the year - Bitcoin Miami 2018
  • I was promoted to Chief Product Officer


Step 5: Rebuilt Product Team Ground Up

Beginning of 2018, a lagging timeline was worrying our hardware manufacturing vendor in China. Simultaneously, a few of our engineers were driven away by the series of scope redefinitions they had endured and a strategic shift toward a web 3 product roadmap they did not embrace. I helped solve this turbulence in the following ways:

  • Personally replaced the Cofounder/ CTO
  • Picked up hardware knowledge base and lead China operations
  • Strengthened Relationship with Chinese Hardware Vendor
  • Flew to China to meet with our hardware vendor to buy Daplie months of time while we came up with the funding to cover hard tooling costs
  • Replaced three in-house devs with a highly-reputed engineering agency

Outcome:

  • Mobilized a highly-qualified product team to deliver on the product
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Ultimate Outcome

The UI design, product direction, and product team I helped put in place was acquired by ClearFoundation in April, 2019.

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Personal Reflection

Here are my two main takeaways from the Daplie experience:

  1. Prior to being hired by Daplie, I had already lead product over a design-intensive consumer application and read a half dozen books on user experience design, but had not thought of myself as a UX practitioner. The Daplie experience showed me how much of an impact a UX skillset can make on a product and convinced me that if I am to bring about great innovations in my career, I need to go deeper into UX. After Daplie, I made a career pivot into UX and have greatly enjoyed the journey.
  2. You can still bring about good outcomes from an impossible scenario.
© 2021 by Jordan Clive. All rights reserved.