Week 48 – Wrapping Up

This week we have:

  • Analyzed our MR 4
  • Finalized the application
  • Finalized the report for the solution
  • Planned the week 49

Friday 1.12

Since last week, we had been running our Facebook questionnaire to get more comprehensive understanding of the market that we could be entering. Our final result was that around 6500 people saw our ad for the questionnaire – but we got zero truly original answers. Luckily this was a small scale test and it was a great lesson for the future – proper planning in internet ‘marketing’ is quite crucial. This will mean that we will continue with our previous results and base our business calculations on those.

Our exit for this year, will consist of a final report – bringing together all the information that we have gathered during the 3 month period. This we started optimistically on Friday morning, needles to say some people worked late into evening.

Saturday 2.12

We started to understand that distilling the amount of knowledge that we had amassed, would require caffeine, sugar and pizza. Our team-leader took us under his roof for the day, to secure the success of the Final Report. The plan seemed fairly successful: One cannot complain too much about writing when you have (G &) tea being served to you. However, even the greatest plans might have unseen flaws. We turned out not to be ready after the day ( Probably because we needed the other hand to drink the tea ).

To salvage the situation, Janne and Lauri made comprehensive tear-down of what still needed to be done before turning in the report. The idea was that, the better we can make the explanations for sub-parts of the report – the better we can share the work tomorrow. This is where we ended the writing for the day, and moved on to respect the Saturday evening.

Sunday 3.12

The calls to arms started around 9 am.

The report had achieved about 25 pages and demonstration of the prototype by this point. It would still grow to page count 38 and attachments. And this wasn’t hastily written – we peer-reviewed everything. I don’t have much of a recollection of the day, but even though some of the team headed to a cruise, and apparently continued from on-board, we actually finished the report by evening.

Writing this report made us realize that, even though the new directive is fairly simple as an idea – the European Union is able to make legislation fairly tedious to understand. We had to return to our material even during the writing, just to make sure that everything was correctly presented. This is definitely something that one might wanna keep in mind, if he plans to work with similar emerging possibilities.

Wrapping up

Our plan for the week consisted about honing our calculations based on the Facebook questionnaire and writing out the Final Report. The Facebook questionnaire turned out to be not as well planned as it could have been – and as a result we didn’t get anything useful out of it. Consequently we were able to allocate more time for the report. The team-work weekend was a real success and was great fun to be part of it. Reflecting on the weekend now, makes me think if we could have prepared or distributer the workload better during the week.

We have now turned our full focus for the upcoming Grand Finale and finalizing the poster for the event.

As a tribute for 100 year old Finland and our famous sports icons, this is not over yet. One more yea… week!

Week 47 – Numbers

During the week 47, after sending the email and doing the poster on Monday…

  • Some of our group members continued with the calculations, which we finished this Monday (27th)
  • Others went through the requirements for the final resolution and report, did a rudimentary structure and division of labour for the report
  • We created a FB page for our service and started a FB promotion for our MR4
  • Rehearsed for the presentation on Monday 27th

CrowdsourceYourFinanceLogoCalculations

One really important aspect we also need to validate is the existence of a real business potential. So far, we have spent most of our time examining the nature of the customer needs, as well as the relevance of our solution in satisfying those needs. Those efforts have been extremely vital, since we have now found out that there really seems to be demand for a service like ours. Now the next obvious step for us is to make our estimations a bit more detailed. We need to make our first serious financial estimations in order to further validate the viability of our business model.

And that’s exactly what we have been up to during the last few days. We have now built an initial financial model that takes some carefully chosen input parameters and outputs some of the most important financial indicators that will give us valuable insights about the true business potential and weather our platform really is a good investment or not. These key indicators include: needed investment, time to profitability, payback time of the initial investment, the critical mass of customers in both sides of the platform, the eventual small loan market share, and of course the optimal ratio of the sizes of borrower side and investor side. We still have some work to do in order to make our input parameters as realistic as we possibly can, but here are some estimations that we have made so far.

We are going to need approximately 730 000 euros of funding in order to maintain our operations until we finally start making profit. This is going to happen after 13 months of operation and our user base is then going to consist of 65 000 active borrowers and 27 000 active small investors. This is our critical mass of customers, distributed across the two platform sides in an optimal ratio of 0.416 investors per one borrower. Payback time for the initial investment is 27 months. In that point, we are making a monthly profit of 92 000€ and our share of the EU small loan market is approximately 0.28%.

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However, like mentioned above, we are still in progress of fine tuning some of the most important input parameters of this model. These parameters include customer acquisition costs for both investors and borrowers, as well as the mean and variance of the payback time of the loans. This means that these estimations are likely to change a bit, but the change is most likely not going to be too dramatic, since we already have a pretty good understanding about the underlying dynamics of the small loan market. We will discuss the final estimations a lot more in detail in our final report that is going to be finished on this week’s Sunday.

Friday 24.11

On Friday we really started to work with our solution report. We had a productive morning with group as we initialized our Facebook page, divided the work for the solution report and wondered together what was meant by the grading criteria.

Sunday 26.11

We had a session on Sunday evening after Junction. Plan was to get prepared for the forthcoming week. Our main goal was to create the presentation for the rehearsal on Monday morning, and be clear what is required to be done during the following seven days. Answer is: A lot needs to be done. We checked the status of our market research 4 on social media, and understood that it is not going to be as informative as we expected.

Monday 27.11

We had almost the whole team together the whole session we had. Pinja and Lauri gave presentation in the rehearsal, here’s a link to that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc89ODQWcr4

Saska had made informative calculations during the weekend, and we can validate our profitability rather precisely based on those formulas! Conclusion of those is that we really are profitable, even rather quickly depending on the customer acquisition cost, both for investors and borrowers. We had a discussion together about the report solution, for which all of us are contributing heavily during the week.

Market Research 4 – Questionnaire in FB

Couple of weeks ago after our second iteration, we decided to conduct two more iterations, which included validating the idea both from professionals and the potential users. Since our market research 3 had multiple answers but from a quite narrow audience (and so narrow type of users) we wanted to conduct one more research with a wider audience. We decided to alter the market research 3 questionnaire a bit, create a facebook page and boost that questionnaire for a targeted audience in several EU countries.

Our Facebook – page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Crowdsource-Your-Finance-377120946062125

We targeted the advert using Facebook audience -tool, and our target audience was 20-30 year old men and women in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Poland. We also excluded the demographics that had the most income, since the target group for our service is 18-30 year olds with small to medium income. The target audience was way bigger than we expected (around 50 000 000) and due to time constraints we didn’t have time to make the target narrower.

Our add will run Saturday – Wednesday, and we have a 30€ budget to use on these days. By Monday, the reach has been around 3500 people, and we’ve got 30 clicks on our questionnaire link. Unfortunately, we have received only 2 answers on our questionnaire. Even though our estimates about the answerers were really low, this is even lower than we expected. On the other hand, people are usually not that active on FB on weekends, so we are hoping to have couple more answers by the end of the campaign.

All on all, there is quite a lot of things to be done before Sunday, but we’re confident that everything gets done. We planned to have a little hackathon of our own on Saturday to finalize the report.

Week 46 – It takes time for a boulder to catch speed..

This week we have:

  • Contacted FiVa and a lawyer’s office regarding the legal feasibility of our solution
  • Started creating the poster for the Grande Finale

It takes time for a boulder to catch speed..

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Friday 17.11

During last week we addressed the structure and different flows (e.g. data, money) of our platform in great detail, first creating service blueprints and later various diagrams. This required going into very specific features, like payback systems and loan contracts, which raised a lot of questions in each of our group members. On Friday some of us gathered to summarize the whole service so that we could ask validation from specialists. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a common understanding of the concept, and had to go through some of the key questions again. On the other hand, this gave us a chance to reflect the decisions we made earlier, and iterate the idea. Finally, we had constructed a pretty clear concept, and written down the key questions that still needed validation. These questions included:

  • What kind of an operator are we in the financial industry?
  • Can we use social data (e.g. Facebook) to calculate the personal interest rate?
  • How should we do the contracts with the lender and investor to minimize our risk and also to gain profit from the difference between the interest rates?

FiVa ( Finnish financial supervisory authority ) has helped us earlier during the project and we prepared to contact them again via email. We see them as the most reputable source of information concerning EU-wide regulations (which we have found out to be hard to decipher). This email was drafted on Friday and sent next Monday.

In addition to discussing about the concept and validation, we checked the course schedule and final deadlines, and realized to be slightly out of schedule. Thus, we created an easy-to-follow schedule for ourselves to use for the rest of course, and highlighted the need for everyones’ effort for the next couple of weeks.

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Monday 20.11

Today we gathered to create the first version of the poster for the Grande Finale. We had multiple different visions how the visual image should be constructed, so we decided to take 15 minutes to create individual sketches and compare them in a way of AB-testing. Two of the four given ideas were quite similar and looked informative, and so we decided to go to that direction. Eventually we got an unified version sketched on the whiteboard, which we can use as a base for the final poster.

We decided that we need to make one more market research, for international audience. The previous was rather informative but the feedback was almost completely collected within Otaniemi, which means that the customer base was rather homogenous (which is not ideal for this purpose). Also we decided that we’ll create more precise calculations on our profitability and needed customer base both on investor and borrower side. We have been focusing mainly on the legal and technical validation, but we want to make sure that we’ll cover also the financial validation for the project.

Since we need to have our final solution ready by next weeks’ Friday (1.12), we have around 1,5 half weeks to:

  • Validate our project from the FiVa (might be problematic, since they promise to answer within 10 days and we sent our email on Monday the 20th.)
  • Conduct our last market research
  • Refine our UI prototype and finish service blueprints
  • Summarize the whole concept, unite all the data we have gathered and generated and write it down in a comprehensive and understandable way, which will work as a basis for our presentations and final report.

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This requires a lot of work, even from 6 enthusiastic students, since we all have our other deadlines and most (all?) of us have a part-time work as well. We will probably have to prioritise some aspects, and leave for example practising for the presentation and final touches to the UI prototype and poster to the week before the Grand Finale. This is the worst case scenario, but since it is also possible outcome we found relevance in bringing it up in the blog (an in order to avoid it).

Week 45 – Blueprints, diagrams and other such fun

This week we:

  • Created a service blueprint of our platform, both from the investor’s and the borrower’s perspectives
  • Churned our ideas of the loan process into a process diagram (or two)
  • Took a deep-dive into the details of the PSD2 regulation, and answered some of our questions regarding the possibilities and limitations of it

 

Friday 10.11

On Friday we gathered together to create a service blueprint of our platform. Since, we have two sides in our platform, and thus two different service experiences, we obviously had to build the service blueprint for both of them. That was really interesting because it allowed us to figure out our front-office- and back-office processes that are responsible for the fulfilment of our customer value proposition. Of course, the service blueprint models our processes on a quite high level of abstraction, but it’s essential to know what processes actually form our core capabilities. That is an important first step in order to understand our operations, but it is also an important tool for us to communicate our business model to our stakeholders. In particular, one of our next steps is to reach out to experts to find out what they think about our business model. Are we practically a bank, fund or something else? Having a proper process chart will be necessary to communicate our idea to these people.

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Monday 13.11

After stumbling from conference room to conference room, we finally found a place to work. And even though we had small manpower, work we did. We focused on high level processes and in just 2.5 hours we had worked out the basic structure of the loan assessment and loan process. 

Loan assessment

We took a deeper dive into PSD1/2 and what is possible in this front. We found out that at least 90 day history of transactions is possible to retrieve. This hopefully allows us to make sufficient evaluations about the risk level of the borrower. To increase the precision, we can include things like public social media info as well as the more traditional credit rating. These will require more digging into regulations.

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Combining all the information to a single number ( risk evaluation ) might prove to be quite hard without a frame of reference. Machine learning might be the answer here: if someone with very similar history has behaved in a certain way, it might be reasonable to predict someone else’s behaviour based on that. Some of our team members are already familiar with the field, so they will ponder our possibilities regarding that in the weeks to come. 

Loan process

What happens when someone wants a loan? How does our process work on our platform? Lauri and Saska tackled this one quickly, but reliably.

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Copy of Loan_process

Connecting borrowers and lenders is reasonably easy – but be want to be in the middle of the connection, keeping the two sides apart. This causes a risk for us, which we naturally want to minimise. Although some safeguards were mentioned we didn’t settle on any just yet – basically the idea is to balance money so, that it covers expected fluctuations on the side of investors ( leaving the platform, being idle and not investing more ) and keeps enough money in circulation to keep the interest coming in.

PSD2 security measures

We tore through some white papers and articles regarding the regulation, such as this one, and made sure that our assumptions and previous knowledge were in line with reality. For one thing, the security measures regarding PSD2 services are strong (as expected): PSD2 implements a new authentication standard, SCA (Strong Customer Authentication). Essentially this is 2FA (two-factor authentication) taken a step further: it requires the user to essentially use two authentication methods for a single login (like 2FA), but these authentication methods must be of different types. So where e.g. inputting a password and then confirming it with a pin would be sufficient in terms of 2FA, SCA would require a user to use two inherently different elements of knowledge. The different types include:

  • knowledge (e.g., PIN/password)
  • possession (e.g., smart phone, hardware token)
  • inherence (e.g., biometrics)

According to the blog post by RSA, in order to not hinder user experience, this type of strong authentication would only be used in some cases: for example, when a user first authenticates a given third party to access their account information. Any successive requests for the same type of info can then be approved with a lower standard of security, by e.g. inputting a pin code or password. There is also a cutoff amount for transactions that don’t need to use strong authentication, ranging from 30€ to 150€ depending on the type of transaction, so small amounts can be transferred with minimal hassle. Taking a close look at these limitations is important: while it is of upmost importance that security standards are high, strong authentication, by nature, is intended to make it harder for someone to authenticate themselves, and thus takes a toll on overall user experience. Small things like setting our recommended investment amount to something that falls below the SCA cutoff amount might make a big difference in terms of UX.

Week 44

During the previous week we moved forward with the project, and focused on the second iteration and its goals. In the summary, we:

  • Had a very productive meeting on Monday 30th October, which we have already described in the previous blogpost
  • Created a BMC model
  • Calculated some relevant estimates regarding our project
  • Presented our project once again on Friday 3rd of November
  • Met with our assistant Sofia on 6th of November (Monday as well) and had a group meeting focusing on the process, platform and its functionality

Third presentation (Friday 3.11)

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Meeting with our assistant (Monday 6.11)

Now when the course is halfway through, we had a well-timed meeting with our assistant Sofia. We discussed more generally about the project, our contribution and the grading criterion. We were all very satisfied with our team and everyone’s efforts. More conversation arose about the weekly assignments and how fitting they are for the open topic group. Sofia told us that they were more like guidelines than strict criteria, and with good argumentation we can focus on the relevant subjects.

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The goals for this iteration

After several weeks of debating and researching our customers, we’ve set the goal for the coming weeks towards concreting our ideas on what our service is. Likely we will still have  several, at least two, iterations before arriving at our final solution, but each coming week brings a host of fresh new ideas and insights regarding the direction of our work.

In last week’s post we outlined some initial goals for the following iteration:

  • Creating a Business Model Canvas (BMC) to identify all the different variables and stakeholders in this service
  • Doing financial calculations to validate our ideas so far
  • Performing more market research, especially to learn more about the borrowing habits of our potential customers

Good news, work towards all of the above goals is well under way. Lauri & Niklas have created the BMC, while Janne & Saska have done initial financial calculations. Juuso & Pinja launched the next round of market research in the form of a questionnaire, and initial results from it seem very interesting. So most of the goals we set last week will soon be fulfilled, but we have in the process identified several new avenues to explore during this iteration:

  • Doing financial calculations proved slightly difficult without a clear idea of how our service will be structured. How are investors onboarded, how do we ensure a continuous flow of investor money into our service, at what point in the loan event do we extract our own profits, and many more such questions arose. One goal for the current iteration will be to decide on all of these things, and to create an infographic or similar to visualize our service in an easy-to-understand way.
  • Ramping up the marketing of our borrowing questionnaire. We have received a fair amount of responses already, but most of the responses are from university students and/or friends of our team members. We created a company page on Facebook for our project, and aim to market our questionnaire to a broader demographic via the Facebook Ad engine, as well as gather a ton more responses.
  • Contacting legal professionals and financial authorities to validate that our concept is legally and technology-wise feasible. Our current idea is that the service would be in essence, legally speaking, an online gambling site, but we need to find out what implications this would have. Another goal is to continue contacting PSD2 experts to get a clearer picture of how exactly AIS (Account Information Services) and PIS (Payment Initiation Services) work.

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Business Model Canvas

Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a template created for structuring and validating new and emerging business ideas. We used this template to validate our solution and to get more structure to our thinking. Check it out here: Business Model Canvas

Crunching the numbers

We did some initial number crunching based on the results we’ve so far gathered from our third round of market research on borrowing habits. The bulk of the answers in the questionnaire came from other Aalto University students, and the audience consisted mainly of 20-30 year olds. Based on this data, we did some calculations on how a market consisting of all of Finland might behave. This is only a rough estimation we arrived to by extrapolating the results from our study, and any interpretation should be taken with a slight grain of salt.

There are a few caveats:

  • The behavior of students and/or residents of Otaniemi does not necessarily accurately reflect the behavior of the same age group in Finland overall
  • The sample size of our study (n=120) is still rather small, so margin of error here is quite large
  • All loans in this scenario, for the sake of simplicity, are either 20€ or 100€, split 50/50

With this said, let’s get to the findings. First of all, let’s look at the age group consisting of 18-23 year olds.

  • 317 279 people aged 18-23 in Finland (StatFin)
  • Half of these people had needed a small loan at some point, so 158 639 people
  • The average person who needed a loan was interested in roughly 3,38 loans per year. This means that the potential amount of loans this age group could take combined comes out to 158 639 * 3,38 = 537 327 loans per year.
  • Members of this age group were willing to pay an average of 1,08€ of interest per loan

Based on these numbers, we can estimate that if our service provided all of the microloans in Finland for people aged 18-23, we would be able reach a total of 583 698€ in interest profits. Running the same calculations on the age group of 24-29 year olds, we arrived at a total interest of 493 082€, so slightly less than the younger age group.

So where does this leave us? Combining these two age groups our total profit potential in Finland comes out to roughly 1,07m€. We calculated the fixed costs of operating our company with a 6 person team with competitive salaries as roughly 362k€. Out of this total gathered interest we would need to first give a lion’s share to our investors, and then use the rest to cover the costs of operating our business.

So what are the main takeaways here? Clearly, even getting all loan activity from 18-29 year olds in Finland is not enough to make the business profitable. The good news is, without increasing the fixed costs of running our business, we could increase our customer base ten-fold, and the situation would already look a lot brighter. With 10,70m€ of total interest profits, we could take a 10% cut out of all of our investor’s profits, cover our fixed costs and still be left with 700k€ to hire a team of customer service agents or market our product. After all the directive making our platform possible is EU wide. It’s a numbers game.

 

Week 43 – Iteration One.. Check

During the 6th week of our project we focused on analyzing the results of our market research, and also the first iteration of our whole project and concept. We introduced the results to our Professor Janne Halme, who gave us a few good remarks on how to move forward. Furthermore we created a new questionnaire to work as a basis for our second iteration.

This week we have:

  • Analyzed market research
  • Had a meeting with the professor
  • Reflected this iteration
  • Planned the following iteration
  • Realized that we are a Lean Startup

AS2W1813The Future and stuff – Monday 23.10

Last week there was some questions about the purpose and business model of our platform. So on Monday morning, we decided to clarify our targets related to that. First of all, we decided that it’s out of our scope to define the exact company form or if we are going to sell our platform to third party facilitator. In this course, we will design a concept and a monetizing model around it. Concept will work regardless the exact corporate structure. Ultimately, we plan to facilitate the platform ourselves instead of selling it to other companies, but that is not our main concern now.

On Monday, we also decided to loosely follow Lean Startup principles since it is very close to what we are doing anyway. This definition allows us to have more clear and unified view about what we are actually aiming for and how. Especially, it clarifies the definition of iteration. One iteration consists of three phases: build, measure and learn. In build phase, we make some hypothesis that we then aim to validate through customer interaction. Based on that information from customers, we then modify our hypotheses and repeat the loop. The iterations proceed from abstract problem definition into more detailed hypotheses of the optimal solution. The end goal of the process is thus to verify that we really build a product or service that solves an existing customer problem in a way that maximizes their value in every level of abstraction.

 

Meeting with Janne & Reflection – Friday 27.10 & Sunday 29.10

On Friday, we thought it would be only proper to let Janne H. & Janne H. have a one-on-one meeting regarding feedback on our coursework thus far. Our team member Janne Holopainen introduced what we had done, while our project supervisor Janne Halme played devil’s advocate and questioned some of the things we had done, as well as pointed out important flaws in our process so far.

Regarding our first iteration of market research, a series of physical interviews, Janne had quite a lot of feedback. In the first part of the interview, we asked the interviewees to order some aspects of investing and borrowing by importance. He pointed out that the phrasing of our interview questions was quite vague – asking things like “how important is extensive dispersion” or “how important are small loan expenses” might come across differently to different people. What we should have done is asked about the same values in a more concrete way. The importance of “small risk” and “high profit” would have meant essentially the same things, but would have been much more self-explanatory to the people being interviewed. Another piece of feedback we received was that we should have done a bit more reading up on how to conduct market research properly, and this is true: in many ways our first iteration of market research left much to be desired.

Despite all of its flaws, some important realisations surfaced from the interviews. Firstly, we realized that people are much more interested in investing their money than borrowing money, although I think we failed to get our interviewees to understand how the borrowing process would work. One other assumption we had in the start was debunked: people are not interested in “buffer-thinking”, that is, keeping their account balance at a set sum automatically by borrowing money if their balance dips below the buffer limit they have set.

On a more general note, Janne posed some important questions about our assumptions so far, and some things that we have not considered enough. For example, what would this service be classified as in legal terms? Are we a bank? An investment fund? Perhaps something more akin to an online gambling site? These are things we must dig into, and figure out how each of them would limit our possibilities and what regulatory burdens they would impose.

Another important question was “is this service actually useful for anyone”? Our first round of market research gave us confidence that the investment side of the service would have demand, but the question remains: is anyone interested in borrowing small amounts of money? This is an important question that we seek to answer with our second round of market research specifically aimed to find out the demand for microloans across several different age groups and demographics.

The last big issue that was brought up was that we didn’t have a crystal clear picture of what our profit mechanism would be. We had been thinking about just taking a set percentage of the interests in loans facilitated by our service, which seemed like the obvious way to go, but we hadn’t really done any real calculations related to that. The question opened our eyes to other possibilities as well: we could, for example, take a set percentage out of all of the profits lenders make via our service. These decisions ultimately effect things like our liquidity – if we encourage investors to withdraw their funds vs. keep them in our service makes a big difference. The coming week we aim to get some proper calculations done, so that we can objectively compare these two (and other) alternatives.

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Market Research Results & Analysis

We briefly introduced the results of our Market Research 2 (N=26) in the previous blogpost, but thought it was necessary to provide a more in depth review and analysis of the results.

For investor

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For borrower

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For investors diversifying the investment seems to be most important factor. This could be due to the reasoning that diversified investments are less risky. This is a feature that we are thinking to implement in our concept, since we’ve had the idea of a “pool”, where investors would invest their money, and from where money would be loaned to borrowers. Second important factor for investors is that investing is free and that there are no service costs.

For loan-seekers low interest rates are the most important factor. This is good news for us, since in our concept we have thought that low interest rates is one of our key assets, which we accomplish through accurate risk defining provided by data from borrowers account data. However, we are not able to offer low interest rates for everyone. Since the interest rate is personal for every customer, it will be highly dependent on each customer’s own risk estimate. This feature of price positioning of our loans will lead to that our loan offers are not appealing to everyone, but particularly for those with good financial credibility. Second and third important factors for borrowers are flexibility in loan terms during agreement and also after the loan has been taken.

When we started creating the concept, we thought that PSD2 would enable automated processes that would be beneficial for borrowers and investors. On the borrower side these processes include paying back loans automatically, when the borrower has money on their account, and also taking loan automatically when their balance is low. On investor side we thought, that investors money would be invested automatically. However, our research showed us that possible customers are not that interested in these kinds of automated processes and they are not so important.

 

Reflection and Analysis of First Iteration

First of all, at this point we defined the term “iteration”. The present view made us understand that this was actually already the second iteration for this course. The first was done on week 40 with the first contact with the potential customers.

Despite the over-optimistic vision of the possibilities with PSD2, we can nail this. The only difference we had to make based on the vision we had before the researches, was about the automation. It wasn’t possible to automatically transfer money without transaction, from and to a person’s bank account.

Pros

Our first two iterations have been quite successful. In our first iteration we managed to verify the existence of the problem and demand for a service to solve it. This conclusion was made in week 40 after our first market research.  Our prototype was helpful in order to successfully carry out the second iteration, since it helped us approach the customers and give them some idea about our proposed solution for their problem. That helped us to gather a lot of important information about our customers’ preferences. Another very important factor that we want to point out is our fluent teamwork. Every individual member has been highly self-oriented within their time limitations, which has made it motivating for everyone to do their own part every single week.

Cons

There has been some concerns about the heterogenous of the target group of our second interview, since there were fewer loan takers than expected answering the questionnaire. We need to do at least another market research for different audience to confirm the usefulness of the platform also for the borrowers. We don’t consider this a huge problem due to the fact, that the money lenders are thought to be the more critical side of these two (after all they are the ones providing the capital for the platform). Also, the data we collected might be slightly subjective because of the form of the questions. Some of our questions were a bit ambiguous and we needed to explain them for our interviewees. That might have introduced some bias, since we can’t guarantee that our explanations were unified.

 

The Next Steps

Second (Third) iteration

We will continue with two iterations. During the next iteration we will do a BMC and some analysis and also some financial calculations to support our concepts ability to create value. For this iteration we are going to split into two subgroups; other subgroup will work on the BMC and the other subgroup will start doing the financial calculations. The second iteration will also include a third market research that will be done to more broad target group. Before this market research we will examine some scientific research on best practices of market researches.

At this moment our idea is that the third and last iteration will include some legal analysis on questions like would we be a bank? Is our service comparative to gambling and internet casinos? How will taxation affect our business?

Third (Fourth) iteration (and the last one)

The focus and content of this last iteration is still likely to change, since we have not yet got results from our second iteration, that can possibly change the direction of our focus.

Week 42 – Returning to the customers

Key activities this week included

  • continuing work on our prototype, which was a good step in visualising the plans for our product.
  • presenting our work to the rest of the course, and gaining some valuable feedback from course personnel and students alike
  • working on some market research to better understand what our potential customers want, as inspired by Friday’s lecture

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The case of Mondays (Monday 23.10)

All of our team members had an extremely intensive week (which for some, felt like hitting a wall), which resulted in a shortage of people during our Monday meeting. We didn’t let this disturb ourselves, and used the time to distribute the workload according to everyone’s knowledge and interest, which were completed whenever we had time.

That’s the great thing about a good team, however. Situations come up where other people than those normally in charge need to step up to the plate and take control of what is happening, and our team had no problem doing that. The remainders of our team carried on with our market research project, and we were able to finish it in time for the deadline, just as planned.

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Presentation day (Friday 20.10)

On Friday morning, we presented our project to other teams and also had a chance to see other presentations. The presentation started at 9:15 and we gathered together at 8 to practice. Presentation went really well and we received a lot of constructive feedback. It was a bit unclear for some members of the audience what PSD2 means in practice, but due to the obvious time constraints of the presentation event and since the concept was explained in the previous presentation, we decided to leave this part out. We also received a comment about being more specific about our customer segmentation so that we can build our platform accordingly. For some people, it was also a bit unclear what is our customer value proposition for different sides of our platform, and we probably should have been more clear when describing that. We also received a lot of good feedback about our prototype, but there was also a concern that it might b a bit too detailed in order to give us unbiased feedback about our concept. Right now our main concern should be validating the concept in abstract level, and then we will iteratively focus on more detailed features.

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After the presentation, we started planning our second customer interview round, where we utilised our prototype. We took the feedback into account and designed the questions in a way that focuses on higher level features of a loan- or investment service in more general sense. Each of us then interviewed five potential customers. This allowed us to understand our customers’ needs a lot better. Below are the questions and structure of our interviews.

Interview_Form

Returning to the customers:

Not to get too attached to our own idea, we returned to interview our potential customers. This time we wanted to know what was really important for them and how did they feel about the prototype. 

The prototype caused some controversy. Almost everyone liked the option of getting automatic notifications to invest their money (Hooray!), making us confident that PSD2 might open up some nice opportunities. Not all of the possibilities were seen as great – Getting a automatic notification to borrow money was seen as sketchy feature. And this was mentioned in reasonable amount of answers. And so it is looking like we will drop the idea of topping up your account automatically, at least until we come up with a way to make it make more sense to our customers.

Other notable problem we encountered was that people mostly preferred to borrow money from companies. This is something we don’t yet have a clear plan for, and this is definitely something that we have to tackle on the coming week. How does one provide the security of a company, but market yourself open for everyone?

Week 41 – From Concepting towards Production

In summary, we:

  • Created value propositions
  • Began the work with the prototype
  • Cleared our vision with Lean Canvases

UX, Monday 9.10

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The lecture was held in the Makerspace in The Harald Herlin Learning Centre. The lecture was of usability and testing it. After the lecture we had a possibility of having a conversation with professor Giesecke, and to explain her how our group has been working, and how the Open Topic is, from our point of view, an amazing opportunity. We wish strongly that this option is available also the following years.

We also worked enthusiastically  with the project plan and so iterated our ideas and created a better understanding of the whole project.

The Prototype, Friday 13.10

On Friday we attended the lecture, where we gained some new ideas about prototyping a product or concept. More specifically, we understood the importance to keep prototypes simple and quick to implement so that the intended insights can be collected with reasonable efforts. This ensures that the iterative product development process remains truly agile.

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After the lecture we started to plan and implement our prototype. We decided to use a prototype platform named proto.io, because our team members had good experiences from that in some of their previous projects. It also suits our needs quite perfectly, since it allows us to build a prototype that clearly demonstrates both the functional and visual aspects of our product to our potential customers. The most important thing however, is that using the platform is quick and intuitive, which gives us a lot of agility in building and refining our prototypes.

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The Lean Canvases

During the week 40 (previous week) we created Lean Canvases according to the instructions from Risto Sarvas.

Lean Canvas

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The value propositions

To keep the goals goal clear in our minds, our team sat down and extracted the fundamental ideas behind our idea. And we would like to share here with you.

First of all:

What is the solution that we are looking for?

Make loan-market an easy option for even small investments and bring down the interest on small loans.

How is the user affected by the problem?

Entering the financial market without large capital is not seen as an option – and on the other hand getting a small loan currently is quite easy, but really expensive.

Promise of value?

We promise to connect the loanees and the loaners to create a market for healthy interest.

Using these ideas to reflect on our work, we hope to produce the best possible product before the Grand Finale.

 

The Prototype

On Friday we started building our first prototype. The weapon of choice for this section was selected to be Proto.io – a platform that allows for prototyping for screen interfaces. We settled on iPhone 6 styled UI.

With all the ideas from previous weeks in mind, we started prototyping. We ended up quickly discarding quite few of those ideas, since many of them didn’t make sense when included into the app.

Here’s a small sneak peek for the prototype

Week 40 – Gaining insight

This weeks themes were to develop a project plan, and since we are a bit ahead of other groups regarding the product development, we also gathered information and insight regarding the concept and use of PSD2 to implement our ideas. In summary, we:

  • Pitched our idea on Mondays session
  • Contacted professionals regarding the use of PSD2
  • Met on Friday to discuss about our concept in the light of the emails and develop a project plan
  • Interviewed some potential target groups/users to gain insight about their knowledge and needs
  • Created an opportunity tournament

Pitch, Monday 2.10

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The week started with a short presentation, “pitch”, about our problems and concept to an audience consisting of other SCI project groups. For us this pitch was extremely relevant, since we are an open topic group and others had no information about our topic. Thus, this was our first opportunity to introduce to topic to others and gather feedback from an larger audience outside our group (excluding course personnel). In order to understand our chosen topic, a greater review of the current market state is relevant. Therefore we chose to focus on describing the market and it’s problems (and opportunities) rather than presenting all the ideas and options we had. Even though other one of our presenters changed at the last minute, the pitch was comprehensive and relaxed. In other terms, it went really well, and we got some great feedback and questions that will be considered in the future.

Getting insights on other projects was beneficial as well. Many of the other problems and especially the solutions the groups had came up with were interesting. It’s also good to know what the other groups are doing, since they are our reference group and will help us define where we should be with the project and what to do next.

Project Plan Workshop 1 & Human centered development – Friday 6.10

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On Friday we focused on the Project Plan, since we had had some schedule issues and no other meetings during the previous week. We started by redefining our concept according to the emails from the professionals in this current field, which we had received during the week (more about the emails below). During the week we had worked on the Project Plan – structure so that it meets the course requirements and is most beneficial for us in the future. At the start, we went through the structure together, gathered ideas and finally specified certain areas for every group member to work on. We agreed to gather content during the weekend, and write the final plan on next Monday.

At the same time we had a group member listening to the lecture about human centered development, and wrap up the most important content and lessons. These included:

  • Fail fast, fail a lot. Hitting a Hole-In-One with the product is really tough. But when you do fail – the retrospect is crucial. Gather data on what went wrong and what should be done differently in the future.
  • Clearly identify the problem you wanna tackle and what is the underlying reason you want to work on this problem. Are you planning to help the customers, create a Startup that will be sold or form a deeper understanding on customer behavior.
  • Connect with the audience, their needs are the thing that should define your product. The questions need to be carefully considered in order to gain the best insight on the reasons, desires and needs of the customer. The customer itself isn’t always aware of the reasons behind their actions (e.g. [Hiring a Milkshake]).
  • WHAT customers do – WHY they do it

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Gathering materials and information (Contacting Fiva, first customer interviews)

In addition to the meetings described above, we also started to gather more information to back up our concept and develop it further. These steps are more related to the next part of the course, iterative product development, but we found it relevant for us to address these issues already at this point of the course.

Contacting FiVa

Since our idea evolves from the new PSD2 -directive it will be highly regulated. We wanted to contact the legal stakeholders and hear their feedback as early as possible so that we could ensure that we have understood the new possibilities that PSD2 enables and that our idea is also legally feasible. We contacted multiple experts from the Financial Supervisory Authority of Finland (Finanssivalvonta [Fiva]) and also the managing partner of Dottir, one Finnish law firm. As a result, we got a lot of valuable information and input that helped us to steer our concept. We got also good contacts that we can use in the future if we need professional input regarding to the legislation and regulation that will affect our project.

Meeting the customers

Inspired by the lecture given by Risto Sarvas, we decided to head over to the city and interview potential customers. We wanted to find out what drives the decisions to take a loan or invest, and what would it take for people to loan money to a stranger.

The responses were not quite what we were expecting – None of the interviewed persons had taken a small ( <2,000€ ) loan, only 28% of the interviewed people knew what P2P-loans are, and less than half of the people were investing their savings in any way.

The initial feeling of a set-back was quickly overthrown by the realization of the new opportunities that opened up. These we are planning to research on the coming week.

Opportunity Tournament

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As presented in the Uncertainty Horizon Map, we had seven (7) options what we started concepting with. As a recall, we held a brainstorming session (during and) after the opening lecture with most of the group. In the tournament, first we eliminated the ones that has no market potential, and the potential users are mostly located in Otaniemi area. These would have been interesting projects, but we felt that none of those would have solved any bigger, easily scalable problem.

So in the step two, there was left the ones related to the PSD2 directive. The battle between service for receipts, the personal accounting and small loans services combined was rather even. Still we felt that there was the biggest potential in small loans services both for lenders and borrowers. After this step we realized that these (borrowing and lending) are actually the two sides of the same service. This is how the tournament went, and how we ended up with the one we are working on now.

The big plan with the small loan services is to provide easy-access service for borrowing money with no guarantees. The reason for this possibility while keeping the interest moderate is that we are able to get the information of the bank account of the customer. From that info we are capable of analyzing the risk factor, and decide automatically whether or not the user is potential customer, and which interest rate would be used for their loans.  All of this is possible due to PSD2 directive.

Week 39 – Picking the One

During the second week of this project we dived deeper into the innovation process. In summary, we

  • Met on Monday and exercised our presentation skills
  • Got together with the entire group on Thursday and spent hours with the idea making process. We used several innovation tools and also talked about our stakeholders. Lastly, we created the basic outline for the following Monday’s presentation.
  • On Friday we met with the professor and our assistant and started working with the Uncertainty Horizon Diagram.
  • During the weekend we all worked on our own with the project.

We have also established some communication tools to handle the project. The majority of our collaboration and content is in Google Drive, and we use Dropbox for hosting any images and other media. We use Telegram for day-to-day communication, and Trello as a Kanban project management tool.

Presentation workshop (Monday 25.9)

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The workshop on performing last Monday was a great session, and in my humble opinion should definitely be a more common topic weaved into university studies. If you have a great idea or product, but can’t convince anyone of it, what’s the point of having it at all? Some trademarks of a great presentation we found on Monday were:

  • Start with a bang:  do something surprising or say something provocative to make sure you have the full attention of your audience. And don’t start if the audience is not ready! We had a great exercise where performers had to wait uncomfortably long before starting their pitch, and you could really notice the difference in how the audience was interested.
  • 3 key arguments: whether your presentation is 3 minutes or an hour long, a good rule of thumb is to have 3 key points to structure your presentation around. Remember to also tell the audience how many arguments you have – that will help you keep their full attention.
  •  A solid closer: end with something that nicely ties together your 3 key points – or if you want to surprise people, suddenly turn the whole argument upside-down and end with something completely surprising that still builds upon your previous points. Make the audience aware of when it is ok to start the applause, for example by saying “thank you”. I might add, from personal experience: your presentation really ends at “thank you”, and anything you say after that will not be registered by the audience, as they are inevitably already in applause-mode.

Innovation process (Thursday 28.9)

Since the previous blog post it has become obvious that our OTOP team has quite a special opportunity on hand. We began brainstorming from a clean slate, limited only by time and available knowledge. We quickly found ourselves in a situation where we were required to have an idea worth looking into. We rushed to identify opportunities by looking for things we could do better, things our own lives were missing and new opportunities provided by changes in legislation and technological advancements.

But with opportunity you need action. For creating workable action from the surfaced opportunities, we had a session where we tried to take the side of possibly interested groups, and assessed the impact of our product. By eliminating the less impactful ideas we decided to work towards PSD2 and peer-to-peer loans.
To avoid rushing into things, we proceeded to identify pitfalls and sectors where our idea wouldn’t shine. This ended up working out by team splitting into two subgroups, and playing the why-game: the other group would question everything with a “why?” and the other group would defend the idea against these questions. Saska, with his background in Industrial Engineering and Management, proved to be superb at stepping into the shoes of the customer and taking a neutral stance.

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To see if we could do even better, we decided to host a negative brainstorming session to come up with the worst possible execution for our idea. The ultimate idea is to come up with horrible product, then by identifying the negative aspects in that product you are able to create a better product. Our session led us to a dystopian vision of a service where customers are ignored and cheated out of their money. We really hope that we have been able to identify the biggest pitfalls and turn them to work in our advantage.

Some of the cornerstones of a great P2P loan platform we identified:

  • Assess people for their ability to pay back loans. Better payback rates – lower interest.
  • Allow as much automation as possible by integrating the loan service directly to customers’ bank accounts. Easier service, reduced costs for all sides.
  • Allow creation of loan-pools with massive dispersion to bring down the risk involved in lending money.

We also began discussing about managing our team’s work. So far, we had used Telegram for daily messaging – which has served us well – and we have really used it a lot. For collaboration – for example writing this blog post – we naturally used Google Drive, as that was a tool everyone was already familiar with. But due to the intensive discussion happening in Telegram it was soon hard to find the most relevant bits of information from the thread. That is how we identified that we would also need something else to keep track of the work that we have been doing and what is up next on our todo-list. We decided to start using Trello, a Kanban project management platform. In Kanban, the idea is to create a ticket for every task that we have identified, and add it to the backlog. Every ticket has a description, an assignee and a due date, which makes tracking our work easy. As the work flows in, the backlog is groomed and filtered, and some tickets get moved to work-in-progress, while some tickets are discarded entirely. When a task has been completed, that ticket is moved to done, and everyone can open Trello to see the status of our project at any given time.

Lecture and session on Friday (29.9)

On Friday we attended the lesson and had a chance to meet our supervisor Janne Halme who challenged our view by asking important and big questions that are necessary to clarify as early as possible. That gave us some important directions for our next steps. After the lesson we also had a chance to meet our assistant Sofia, who helped us to comprehend the point of the three-horizons-tool and how that can actually be useful for us. Just like Janne did, she also helped us to broaden our view on the topic and encouraged us to consider different approaches. One of the main points there was the need to approach the problem from personal perspective so that it is easier for us to understand the validity of our solution in later phases of the project.

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Stakeholders

We identified four important stakeholder groups for our microloan platform. Our product can be seen as a two-two sided platform that facilitates borrowing and lending between the two sides. The borrowers and lenders are obviously the two most important stakeholders and the ones that actually generate our revenue. Banks are also important, since the whole business model is based on the access to their customers’ financial data through their APIs. Facilitating interactions like this requires also an approval from national finance and insurance authorities, for example the Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority in Finland.

Uncertainty Horizon Diagram

Uncertainty Horizon Map

1 – Personal Accounting
2 – Cloud based database for receipts
3 – Global news
4 – Hassleplatform
5 – Eventplatform
6 – Small loan services for lenders
7 – Small loan services for borrowers