📱 From Apple to Airbnb: How to build a design-led organisation
Founders Factory Startup Bulletin #21
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In May 2022, Instagram users opened up the app for the first time that day and were faced with something alarming. A small but conspicuous change had been made to Instagram’s feed, a deliberate move bringing the app closer in appearance to rival TikTok.
The reaction was not what Instagram might have expected. Far from it. Millions expressed their outrage at the app’s new appearance; many pledged to leave the platform all together. Some of their biggest influencers even vocalised their distaste.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri quickly u-turned. A valuable lesson was learned: every decision you make should be keeping your customer’s experience front of mind. In other words, forget design, forget your business.
In this Startup Bulletin, Founders Factory designer Isha Maggu shares some valuable lessons from the world of design for founders to apply to their organisations. Also in today’s edition:
Our top recommended reads
News from the Founders Factory portfolio
Opportunities for founders this month
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📱 From Apple to Airbnb: How to build a design-led organisation
By Isha Maggu, Product Designer at Founders Factory
Ever been browsing the internet, and wondered—why is that page laid out like that? Why is that button there, and not there? Okay, maybe this isn’t the thought process most normal people go through. But every decision like that, from broader visual identity to small details like where certain click-throughs sit, is the work of designers.
Yes, we make things look good. But design is so much more than aesthetics: there are tenets that are universally valuable for any startup, and for that reason it’s an incredibly valuable mindset to instil across your organisation.
Design is also about…
…creating exceptional experiences for your customers
It’s no longer enough to build a product with a satisfactory digital experience. Users expect seamless, exceptional experiences—otherwise they’ll abandon your product. See the aforementioned Instagram example.
Airbnb is a great example of a design-driven organisation (founded by two former designers). They understand that the majority of your interaction happens outside of their website/app, and have designed a product which perfectly complements your digital and real world experiences.
…making better decisions driven by iterative learning
Being design-centric means constantly learning, testing and iterating with users. Just because you have a product launched, it doesn’t mean you’re ‘done’. You can do this through design reviews, tests, and feedback sessions.
By ignoring this, you’re in danger of spending time on building something that users might not need or use. You can iterate on it later, but you would have lost time and resources to build those first versions of the product.
…fostering a user-centric mindset across your organisation
When looking at a product, each function on the team should be questioning simple things such as: does this make sense, or does this create a good user experience? You should ensure that user centricity is everyone’s responsibility.
One of our Venture Studio businesses—Nabu, an NFT valuation engine—involves tech and business development team members in user findings sessions and brainstorming sessions, in order to create more productive conversations when thinking about product build. The outcome is a product where user needs run through all aspects of the business.
…empowering people at all levels of your team to contribute
Finally, the design approach means giving a voice to everyone across your organisation to contribute and give feedback on each other’s work. We regularly run ‘design crits’, where we present our work to one another and invite people from across the organisation to contribute.
Johanna Drewe, associate creative director at design agency Studio Output, sums its up perfectly: “So much of design is about different perspectives coming together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.”
Read Isha’s full article on building Design Led Startups:
📚 Our top recommended reads
My 2023 deeptech and crypto thesis (Rand Hindi)
Netflix’s new chapter (Stratechery)
The outlook for 2023: A founder’s perspective (Founders Factory)
💸 News from the Founders Factory portfolio
We announced our expansion into Italy, in partnership with leading Italian telecoms provider Fastweb. Together, we will build, fund, and scale 30 new tech startups over the next five years. Read about the launch in Tech.EU here
Iris AI, who are using machine learning to accelerate academic and scientific research, received up to €14.4m in funding and grants
Founders Factory Africa were named in the Top 10 Biggest Investors in African startups in 2022, according to a report by Ventures Africa. We join the likes of Y Combinator, Techstars, and Plug & Play
HotelRunner announced their $6.5m Series A to help them expand globally. They’re providing the technological infrastructure for the hospitality and travel industry
Clothes Doctor closed a $1m investment into their sustainable clothing care business. It caps off an exciting 2022 for the business, who saw 270% growth last year
We saw two startups from our portfolio included in the 2023 Startups 100 Index—Poplar Studio (creating 3D and AR e-commerce experiences) and Worldr (zero-trust workplace communications tool)
📆 Opportunities for founders
LGBTQ+ Founder Report panel & network (February 9th, London)—an event to celebrate the launch of the first-of-its-kind report on LGBTQ+ founders and investors. Tickets are limited but you can apply to attend here
HealthTech Breakfast Club (late Feb/early March, London)—we jointly host a monthly panel on the latest healthtech trends. If you’re a healthtech investor, or have a particular health interest/expertise, email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about attending
Polygo—introducing the UK’s first talent accelerator, launched by the Founders Forum Group. Startups can register now to host high-impact, digitally native interns as part of their first cohort. Read more about Polygo & sign up here (registrations close end of tomorrow)
NEF+ is launching its next intake (commencing April)—NEF+ is a six-month learning, mentoring, and networking programme for entrepreneurs. Apply here by end of March
See you next month 👋
Interested in reading more of the same insights? Check out the Founders Factory blog, and previous newsletters.