Last weekend I went to the second Good for Nothing, a full on 48 hours of tea and booze fuelled thinking, making and doing for three good causes. I've written about my first experience at Good for Nothing and I won't repeat what I covered there. The Pipeline boys put in place a few tools to encourage people to get making faster this time, but the main difference was that this was a two day event rather than just one and the emphasis really was on making something go live by the end of day two - no jacking around.
This time round I worked with GnewtCargo, a zero-emissions logistics company who use electric vans and cargo cycles to deliver goods in East London. You can read a great round up of what the group overall achieved here but I want to focus on the part that I was working on as it proved to be a great example of what you can do when you apply Lean principles to the hack day mentality.
GnewtCargo asked us to help them develop innovative ways to use their fleet in downtime for social good. On Saturday morning we started off by brainstorming what kind of service this could be, who would use it and how it would be sustainable for Gnewt. Using the Lean Canvas, we were able to identify three different use cases with potential revenue streams. These were:
- Slow delivery, for stuff that isn't in a rush - drivers pick up packages on return journeys and deliver them within the next 3 days for a cheaper price than a standard courier service.
- Coffee run - building on a pilot project GnewtCargo had already carried out, this would involve picking up used coffee grounds from independent shops and then selling them on through garden centres as a cheap and eco-friendly feed for plants.
- Evenings and weekends - provide a delivery service to customers buying from independent shops, we expected the target audience would be people shopping at small furniture shops, garden centres and food shops which didn't have their own delivery service.
The next step was to figure out how we could prototype and test these services over the weekend. We came up with two ideas we could carry out in the time available. To test demand for the coffee grounds we packaged some up to take down to Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday and see if anyone would buy any. Secondly, to find out if there was a demand for an out of hours delivery service, we jumped on our bikes and headed out to speak to some shops and see if we could offer a free trial delivery to their customers on Sunday. It was a classic customer development approach: get out of the building and talk to people.
I was one of the people who went out to speak to independent shops about how they could use GnewtCargo. We set up a Posterous blog to log our findings as we were out and about so that the team back at the ranch knew how we were getting along. After speaking to a few shops it quickly became apparent that most of them already had a delivery arrangement in place. Even furniture shops on temporary premises, such as Brick Lane, had their own system which was usually run by the owner of the store.
However, while cycling along in the sunshine (yes, it was pretty blissful) we came across the Pallet Project, an artist's project making furniture out of old pallets in a pop-up shop on Exmouth Market. As it turned out, they were in need of some help moving their work down to Clerkenwell Design Week the following week. We'd thrown out one hypothesis to come across another: artists and makers need help on a sporadic basis to move their work from studio to exhibitions and shops. Not only that, but we'd identified a potential way to reach the target audience through the network of pop-up shops run by groups like Meanwhile Space.
We set up a test delivery with Christian from the Pallet Project the following Wednesday which went swimmingly. Here's what Christian had to say about it:
It was great, I'd definitely recommend it to others and the rates they were talking about were very reasonable. I really like the concept because they're trying to do something similar to us. We re-use material that would be wasted to make our furniture and these guys are re-using journeys that would be wasted.
So here's to a successful collaborative think/do rave up. It was cracking good fun and the combination of customer development with hack turned out to be a super-fast, nifty way to get a service idea from conception to road readiness in a weekend. Not to mention all the other brilliant work put together by the rest of my team and the other two groups. Stay tuned for more from the Pipeline Project, they've got some very exciting evil plans for how to take Good for Nothing to the next level.
Photo of Christian from the Pallet Project: credit to Gaia Marcus