Planning & building an MVP product for Go-to-market

High Alpha x Colaboratory

High Alpha (HA) is a venture capital company that provides product leadership and other needs to start up companies to speed up scalability. HA partners with a company — Usually 3-6 months — providing thought leadership and design around product.

Colaboratory is a start up focused on creating brand collaboration opportunities for its members. Mainly based in Minneapolis — CEO, CTO and head of customer success — with under 10 employees. On this project we worked with the all employees on a consistent basis.

The challenge

GTM with a brand collaboration platform

Our goal for this project was to take a problem identified by the CEO and expand on his vision for a product that would disrupt the marketing industry. The premiss for the product would help brands collaborate with each other by suggesting strategic collabs based on science and data. Recommending plans of action to utilize each other’s audiences.

High level goals:

  • 1. Collaborate with CEO and other stakeholders to solve the right problems
  • 2. Create a style guide and a start to a scaleable component library
  • 3. Deliver an MVP version to be built and iterated on

My role

My Position
Lead Product Designer
~ 3 months
On this project I was the lead designer. I worked and received guidance within our High Alpha team, and when ready presented each step of the design process to the founders and the rest of the company. Eventually creating a very unique solution for an up and coming sector within the marketing industry.

Once final designs were critiqued by the CEO, Head of engineering and various other stakeholders — Files were prepared for handoff. During handoff I was available for questions and possible revisions if needed.

I stopped working on the project right before the finish of development because I had been placed at another company in need of a full time product designer.


Learning the problem, personas and vision

Before jumping into design we needed to gain more insights about the problem we would be solving in the industry, the vision of a possible solution and the audience we would be designing for. For this we had several meetings with Colaboratory’s CEO, CTO and Head of Customer Success to help learn more about the current standing of things.

Finding the minimum needed for GTM

After learning as much as possible from the team it was now time to take that vision and figure out what was the most logical MVP that we could go to market with. This required working more closely with the CTO to figure out what was feasible within our timeframe.

Early insights

Customer data needed to be collected over time

To fuel the CoLab report (value prop) we needed data from each company input within the CoLaboratory system. Since we were taking an MVP approach it was best that we automate what we can from the start to make it look and act like software, but provide a lot of value by providing a service at first.

Value for customers was still iterating as a service

The initial CoLab recommendation report that had been designed was in early conception and not yet automated. With the report to likely be iterated on very quickly, it was decided that  it would be manual from the start. Receiving feedback on a daily basis it would be best to keep the report as a service.

Simple to start, then time to learn and iterate

With a rapid iteration of the service being provided it was best that the design started simple and easy to implement with the selected tech stack. Top priority for the product was creating a platform to deliver the service to the customer until it was time to productize the service offering.

Design needed to have a scalable foundation

Even though the designs needed to be simple doesn’t mean it couldn’t set the stage for something more complex down the road. Finding unique and creative solutions that can evolve with the customer was just as important as delivering the product quickly to the marketing industry.


Defining user needs and fast follows

At a minimum the user needed access to the quarterly CoLab reports created for them. To achieve this we would need to think through the user flows to create an account, login and how the user would access these quarterly reports delivered. Fast follows included notifications to and other things to drive engagement.

CoLab report to eventually be productized

The main report value prop being delivered was decided to be a keynote slide deck delivered via email by the head of CS. The insights in the slide deck were eventually to be placed in the software in due time.

Besides recommendations what else is there

After all the MVP tasks were finalized it was time to think past initial launch. Thinking through other edge cases for the user and what would be most beneficial for them while using CoLaboratory. Exploration included: Brand profiles, discover of new brands, user profiles, user management and collaboration projects.

Reframing the problem

Developing the minimum, but still delivering the best user experience with the service provided

With discovery and exploration conducted we could now accurately restate the original problem. Our ultimate goal was to always help customer grow by utilizing brand collaboration, but how do we do that in the most efficient way possible to get to market so we could start learning and iterating.

“ might we provide the user a MVP version of insights on strategic collaborations for their brand?”

This begged the question, how might we create a product that delivers the CoLab reports to our customers in an intuitive way while still meeting MVP standards? This resulted in a design flow that appeared to customers on the surface to be software, but in reality was manual work being done my a CoLaboratory team member until automation was top priority.

Design Strategy

Build a solid foundation

To keep things consistent we needed to build a base for all future designs that could evolve. A style guide was created and a lot of thought behind layout and navigation was conducted to ensure room for growth.

Design with flexibility

Knowing an overall vision can be helpful, but a large majority of the time that vision will evolve or pivot ever so slightly. That is why it was best to design the product with room for growth so when things do change you adapt.

When you can’t automate, iterate

When moving quickly we needed to be conscious of what we spent our time building. Getting to market cannot be slowed down by NICE TO HAVES. So choosing what to automate from the start was very important.


New member sign in flow

The business was open to anyone signing up, but there were some restrictions to fully automating the flow at first because it required a in-person meeting to gather insights about the company and close a sale. The MVP version involved a requesting of info that automated an email to schedule a meeting. After the closed sale some manual work was done to create an account for the new customer.

Dashboard to view all CoLab reports & Playbooks

The insights and recommendations had been decided to be hand delivered for beta customers until the product was ready. So for MVP we needed an avenue for the CS team to deliver the report and a way for the customer to view it. Not only would they need to view the report, but all reports that were delivered. Initially it started as just a list, but then it quickly evolved to also show other resources to assist you in making a decision.

Login page for existing customers

With new members having access to the software after account creation there needed to be a login screen to access what they just purchased. Combining elements from the brand team and utilizing an existing framework we were able to design a login that conveyed the right brand voice to our users.

Further anticipating user needs + exploration

After the core parts of the MVP were discovered and completed it was time to keep diving deeper into possible use cases to anticipate user needs. We got to explore areas that included: dashboard iterations, brand profiles, a discover page, ways to ease collaborating, managing collaborations and other areas.

The launch

Able to start onboarding customers and using the platform

Unfortunately, I was not able to be around during the finish of development and the official launch of the platform due to being placed at another company that needed a full time product designer. From what I know the project was a success and they were able to start onboarding beta customers and generating leads for new customers to sign on!

Product iterating in the direction we thought it would

The early discovery for anticipating user needs was also something that has now been implemented into their current product. Even though it might not be exactly the same as the exploration designs, it is similar conceptually.

👈 back home

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