Introducing thoughtbot's ongoing maintenance service. Need reliable support and maintenance for your software? Look no further. Our expert team handles upgrades, bug fixes, UI adjustments, and new feature development. And the best part? Our maintenance packages start at just 5k per month for companies of all sizes.
From Ruby on Rails to Node, React, and, yes, even PHP, we've got you covered. Trust thoughtbot for top-notch support and optimized performance.
To receive a custom quote, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maggie Bachenberg, CEO, and Trisha Ballakur, CTO, are the co-founders of Pointz, a mobile mapping app that helps navigate bike and scooter riders through safe routes in cities.
Victoria talks to Maggie and Trisha about their cycling backgrounds, how they met and became co-founders, and what they feel is the differentiator for their app versus what was/is already on the market for biking-related apps.
- Follow Pointz on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or TikTok
- Follow Maggie Bachenberg on LinkedIn.
- Follow Trisha Ballakur on LinkedIn.
- Follow thoughtbot on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Become a Sponsor of Giant Robots!
VICTORIA: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Victoria Guido. With me today is Maggie Bachenberg, CEO and Co-Founder of Pointz, and Trisha Ballakur, CTO and Co-Founder of Pointz, a mobile mapping app that helps navigate bike and scooter riders through safe routes in cities.
Just to get us started here, are you both cyclists? And if so, where do you do that at? What's your city? Where do you bike around?
MAGGIE: Yeah, we both bike. So I live in Providence, Rhode Island, along with Trisha, and use my bike primarily as a transportation device. So I'm riding around from my house to work, to get groceries, to my friend's house, kind of all different types of purposes.
TRISHA: Yeah, and I grew up biking but kind of stopped after age, like, six or seven. And it was only when I got to college at Brown, where I met Maggie, that I got back into it and felt more confident to get back on the bike. And that was completely actually because of Pointz.
VICTORIA: Oh, that's nice. Yeah, speaking of confidence, I am not confident on a bicycle. I actually only learned after college. [laughs] And there's a video out there of my college friends helping me learn how to ride a bike. It's very cute. But still not my expertise. So I'm excited to learn more about it and learn about how Pointz could give you that confidence. So, whoever who'd like to start, why don't you tell me about what caused you to want to create Pointz?
MAGGIE: Pointz was originally kind of my idea. And I got into biking in 2017 when I did a long-distance bike trip. I biked from Virginia to California. And it was my first time doing long-distance cycling, and I just kind of fell in love with it.
But I realized that when I was riding, it was pretty scary to navigate cities in particular. And so, a lot of locals would redirect me onto different routes that were safer. And I was confused why this wasn't captured in a mapping app already. And so, that's kind of where the idea was seeded. But I didn't start working on it until I got to college and met Trisha.
VICTORIA: Great. So you got to college, and you saw that there was a need to have easier access to biking and biking information in an area, right?
MAGGIE: Yeah, exactly.
VICTORIA: Very cool. What was that initial process like? It was just the two of you, and you started building stuff? How did you really get the traction going early on?
MAGGIE: It started with doing some customer discovery interviews with local cyclists. And so we interviewed over 100 initially and just asked kind of what their biggest barrier was to start riding. And we kept hearing this recurring theme of people not feeling safe enough to go on different routes.
And so we brainstormed a bunch of different ideas in a class that Trisha and I were in together. But we ended up landing on the one that we're working on today, which is, like, you know, the rating system, and then also putting the rating system of bike friendliness into a routing algorithm where people could actually find routes.
VICTORIA: That's very cool. And was there anything that really surprised you in that customer discovery process?
MAGGIE: Just maybe the consistency around people's fear and, like, I guess, being nervous on a bike because we were interviewing people of all types of backgrounds and experiences. And even people that were more experienced had this fear of getting hit by a car because of lack of infrastructure and that sort of thing.
TRISHA: Doing customer discovery and chatting with so many different types of riders...and we call them riders, bike riders, rather than cyclists for the distinction that, you know, in the bike riding community, there's a lot of very avid fitness-geared cyclists, maybe who want to go on their bikes to burn calories and challenge themselves.
A lot of people they would call themselves someone who rides a bike. And it's to those types of people where safety is really critical, especially in allowing new people to go and try to ride a bike for the first time or the first time in many years. And so, that's something else that we noticed from those customer discovery interviews is identifying the different types of riders.
VICTORIA: Thank you. That clears it up for me because I never know to call someone a cyclist or a rider, but it makes sense that cyclist is more, like, the athletic pursuit versus riding and, you know, just trying to get about your day. [laughs] And it also makes me feel better that even people who are really experienced riders have fear of being unsafe or getting hit by a car because that's certainly what I'm thinking about when I'm [laughs] venturing out there. So, what was your initial build like for the app solving this problem?
TRISHA: Initially, we had a couple of different Brown University interns or students working on it together one summer and myself included. And that evolved to me and this one other student who was working with us figuring out how to transition the app from, like, an iOS Swift native app to React Native so it could be cross-platform. And we had to teach ourselves React Native for that.
But we were able to replicate that in React Native during; I think it was my junior...Maggie in my junior winter break. That became the start of our MVP, which had many, many more iterations to get all the features in and was a little bit slow to build until when we released it out, which was our senior year in about March or so.
VICTORIA: So that's really exciting. So, like, how long did it take you to really get to that initial MVP with the team that you have?
TRISHA: It took quite a bit longer than expected, as with all sorts of technology when you're building it for the first time. So what was important to us throughout the process was making sure that all the features we put out there were really well tested, and were useful, and were actually solving the problem of providing safer routing.
And to get to that stage, at first, we, you know, we had an app in Swift. Then we wanted to make it cross-platformed, and we needed to have the routing algorithm actually take those different weights, the different bike friendliness ratings of the roads into account. And that took a lot of researching and talking to mentors. So there were quite a few really hard challenges to get to the MVP, which is why it spanned about a year to get to that point.
But throughout it all, we worked with other students at Brown. Then we pulled in some front-end contractors from online, like contractor sites, who were awesome. And we were just focused on being really scrappy to get it out in March of 2022.
VICTORIA: That's great. And maybe it felt like a long time, but I feel like a year for a really solid MVP is pretty good, [laughs] especially when you have those safety concerns, and the quality of your data, and what you're giving out is super important. So now you've got the MVP, and I believe you just raised your round of seed funding last year. What was that process like for you?
MAGGIE: Yes, so the round of funding that we did, we raised the first initial amount actually going into our senior year, and that was from a firm called Rogue Venture Partners. And we also got a little bit of it from their Women's Fund. And, yeah, that was the kind of piece of funding that got us started and allowed us to really, you know, add additional resources to the product to get it out there, at least the MVP. And then, after that, we got a little bit more funding from them.
And then we raised money from Techstars as well because we got into their accelerator at The Roux Institute. That's kind of in association with Northeastern, and that was out of Portland, Maine. I guess it wasn't really necessarily, like, a cohesive round. It was, like, a couple of different checks that all kind of went into, like, our early funding for Pointz.
And I would say it was very much so based on, you know, our relationship that we had with our initial venture firm that were working with Rogue. They actually mentored us for quite a few months before they invested in us. So they started mentoring us our junior year when we were in school. And then we got the deal together September of 2021.
VICTORIA: That's awesome. Well, congratulations. And I'm glad you were able to find the right partnerships, and mentors, and funding that you needed. What did you find was really the differentiator for your app versus what was already on the market for biking-related apps?
MAGGIE: There are a couple of different types of competitors, so there are the biking-related apps that you just mentioned, and then there are the general kind of use case apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps. And so, for the bike-related apps, the main thing that's different about Pointz is that we're more focused on, like, bike riders in general, so people that are riding around for transportation and recreation, not so much the cyclist type of a person that Trisha described earlier.
So, you know, a lot of our features are geared towards people that are getting around the city or maybe are exploring a city or a neighborhood. It doesn't necessarily have to be a city, but that's kind of the focus. Whereas for other cycling-specific apps, like Komoot or Ride with GPS, it's focused a lot on, like, the fitness side of things and the recreation fitness side of riders. And so, at least the Ride with GPS and a few other of, like, the technologies that are available to more hardcore cyclists tend to have a more sharp learning curve. And ours was built more as, like, a general use case in navigating and exploring.
VICTORIA: That makes sense. So it's more for people like me who are trying to go the most scenic [laughs] or the flattest and the safest way, not necessarily the fastest or the more fitness-focused aspect of cycling and biking.
MAGGIE: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, we actually built this for people like us. Granted, I did do that long-distance bike trip. But, generally, I don't consider myself that hardcore of a rider, I mean, in my daily life. So it's for people who don't really identify as a cyclist and are more just, like, riding their bike around and, honestly, for people who are new to riding in general.
Because a lot of our riders have recently gotten into biking or have recently moved to a new area, and so, they're just trying to figure out, you know, where are the good places to ride? Where do I feel safe? And, you know, how can I get more comfortable on my bike?
VICTORIA: I'm loving this idea because I have a bike that's been sitting in my patio for over a year. [laughs] I haven't used...my partner is like, "Can we get rid of it? Because you don't use it." But I'm like, "I will. I will use it." I know my neighborhood problem is that there are giant hills if we leave our street here. So getting out is fine. But getting back in [laughs], it's like you need an electric bike. So that's very exciting.
So, tell me more about now that you've graduated and you're taking this up full time; what does the future look like? What's on your horizon?
MAGGIE: I mean, we've been working a lot with one of our advisors on, you know, getting to the point where people really love the product, and that's been kind of happening over the last year. We met Anuj Adhiya from Lenny's Newsletter. We've been working with him to really hone in on what the thing is that people really love about Pointz and make that experience better. And then also figure out what exactly the persona is so we can target them eventually with marketing, which is kind of the stage that we're at right now.
So we were seeing our retention curves really evening out in especially a couple of cities that we're targeting. And so, this summer, we're focusing on getting our user base up in Los Angeles and then trying to figure out how, like, a playbook for scaling up a user base in a specific geography. Right now, a lot of our users are distributed throughout the United States. And there are clusters, but there's not, like, a huge spike in one city. And so, that's what we're working on right now is figuring out how to get a geographic kind of density to happen.
VICTORIA: That makes sense. And it sounded like the app also uses a lot of user-generated data for safety ratings and things like that. Am I getting that accurately?
TRISHA: Yep, that's correct. And what we do is we have a bunch of different layers of our data that we pull from. We have a base layer of data that comes from OpenStreetMap, and then we build on top of that. We rate all roads on a one through five bike friendliness scale. And building on top of that, we pull from city-specific data sets from cities, and towns, and municipalities. And then, we layer on the crowdsourcing similar to how Waze does at the top.
VICTORIA: Got it. So taking advantage of that open data, the open city data, and what other data the city is putting out there. Are you finding that you're using whether or not a city has open data to inform if you're going to expand into that location?
MAGGIE: Kind of as a focus point. So, the way it works right now is Pointz is available actually anywhere in the U.S. So; it doesn't matter if you're in a city or a rural area, you can use Pointz. And you can use it for routing and navigation and all the features that are available. However, we only have visualized the ratings in all 350 or so urban areas in the U.S., and so those are all visualized, but not all of them have the supplemental city-data.
And so, the way we decide when we pull in city data is based on gaps in, like, the base layer. So, if we're seeing that there are a lot of accuracy issues in a specific city, we'll go, and we'll look and see if there's a more accurate map that the city has put out or that an advocacy group has put out. And so, we've done this recently in Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, just to supplement the base layer of data, and it has helped a lot in terms of accuracy. And users or our riders really like it.
VICTORIA: That's great. And what is your current level of usage in the app? How well have you been adopted?
MAGGIE: Are you talking in terms of, like, user numbers or just, like, our engagement levels?
VICTORIA: Yeah, whatever you're using to measure your level of engagement or number of users on the app. Like, what are your stats looking like?
MAGGIE: Yeah, so, we use...we have our overall signups. And then we have a subcategory of, like, active and engaged users. And so, for our overall signups, we're at just over 9,000 total signups since we launched the MVP, and we haven't marketed it at all kind of until right now, where we're trying to push it out in LA a bit more.
And then, in terms of our engaged cohort, I'd have to pull up the exact number. But last I checked, it was around 1,800 monthly active users. We kind of look at that cohort, and then we break it down into, you know, who's even more engaged in that? Who's coming back every week, every day?
VICTORIA: Introducing thoughtbot's ongoing maintenance service. Need reliable support and maintenance for your software? Look no further. Our expert team handles upgrades, bug fixes, UI adjustments, and new feature development. And the best part? Our maintenance packages start at just 5K per month for companies of all sizes.
From Ruby on Rails to Node, React, and, yes, even PHP, we've got you covered. Trust thoughtbot for top-notch support and optimized performance.
To receive a custom quote, contact email@example.com.
VICTORIA: And with me here, I have Richard Newman, who is the Development Director on our Boost Team, to talk to me a little bit more about what maintenance actually looks like once you've built your software application, right?
RICHARD: Hi, Victoria.
VICTORIA: Hi, Richard. You have experience building applications. I wonder if you could describe to a founder who's considering to build an application, like, what should they consider for their long-term maintenance?
RICHARD: Well, like you said earlier, part of what you're going for with that long-term maintenance is making sure the health of your project, of your application, is always there. And you don't want to be surprised as you're continuing to work with your users and so forth.
And so, a number of things that we pay attention to in maintenance are, we're paying attention to keeping the application secure, providing security updates. We want to make sure that the ecosystem, basically, all of the tools and third-party services that are tied to your application that, we're responding to those sorts of changes as we go along.
And then part of it is, occasionally, you're going to find some smaller issues or bugs or so forth as your user group continues to grow or as needs continue to change. You want to be able to respond to those quickly as well. And so, a lot of what goes into maintenance is making sure that you're paying attention and you're ahead of those things before they surprise you.
VICTORIA: Because what can happen? Like, what are the consequences if you don't do that ongoing maintenance?
RICHARD: Well, the security updates those happen across gems and in the platform sort of tools that are there. And so, if you're not keeping those up to date, your exposure, your vulnerability to being hacked, or having a bad actor come into your application start growing on you if you're not doing the maintenance.
The other ones that can come up is there's new interfaces that these third-party services...they may be updating their APIs. They may be updating how you're supposed to work with their tool. And so, those can occasionally break if you're not paying attention to what's going on or you're suddenly surprised by an upgrade that you have to make.
And then, finally, there's this long-term sort of code change that just builds up over time if you're not keeping it refactored for the changes that are upcoming in a language or the gems that you work with. And then, suddenly, after a while, it suddenly gets to the point where you have a lot of work that you might have to do to rehabilitate the application to take on some of the newer features that are being released. And so, that makes it that much more difficult, that much more friction about being able to deliver updates for your users or to be able to respond to changes that are happening out there in your application.
VICTORIA: Right. So, if you don't have that ongoing maintenance, you could run into a situation where, suddenly, you need to make a very large investment and fixing whatever is broken.
RICHARD: Absolutely. It's going to be very tough to plan for if you weren't keeping up all the way along and, yes, absolutely ends up being much slower if you have to remediate it.
VICTORIA: That makes sense. I wonder if you have any examples of a project you've walked into and said, "Wow, I wish we had been doing a little bit more maintenance." [laughs] And maybe you can share some details.
RICHARD: Yeah. We had a fairly large application that involved a number of clinic services. So, we had an application that users were going in every day and counting on our fast response. And, over time, we've got surprised by a database upgrade that had to happen. Basically, the database was going to be changed by our third-party hosting service, and that hadn't been tested. There hadn't been procedures in place when we discovered this need. And there was a very hard date that that change had to be done or else the entire application was going to go down.
And it came at a very inconvenient time, at the end of the year around Christmas, that we had to respond to all of that. And had we been in front of it and just updated it every quarter and staying current with it, it wouldn't have been nearly the lift that it turned out to be. We were facing a pretty hard deadline [laughs] there to keep things going. It was very, very stressful and disruptive for the team and potentially for the clinics.
VICTORIA: Right. And it always happens around a big holiday or something like that, right? When it all comes to a head. So...
RICHARD: Absolutely. You want to be in control of the timeframe and not have the timeframe be in control of you.
VICTORIA: Right. And if you have a team like thoughtbot supporting you, you can go on your vacation with a little bit more knowledge that if something breaks, there's someone there who can respond and fix things, and you don't have to interrupt your very valuable time off. So...
RICHARD: [chuckles] Absolutely.
VICTORIA: Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Richard, for joining me today. I appreciate you coming here to talk with us. And we'll talk to you again soon.
RICHARD: Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thank you.
VICTORIA: I'm wondering if you have any incentives built into the app for users who are, like, contributing data back, or maybe they're writing every single day. Are there any little challenges or achievements that you could unlock within the app right now?
MAGGIE: We do have some gamification, yes. And so, the way that people can earn points on the app...we call them points with a Z because of the name. The way that they can earn those points are a couple of ways. So, one is through riding their bike and using Pointz as a navigation tool or as a tool to record their ride. And so, for that, you get one point for every mile.
And then the second way is by contributing to the map, so either crowdsourcing an amenity like a bike parking that isn't on the map already or by adding information about a hazard that might be on the map, like, for example, a car parked in the bike lane. And for each of those, you know, you get one point. And so, yeah, we have that gamification system built out and a couple of...like, we have a leaderboard. And then, also, we have, like, a way for you to kind of go up in your avatar on the app.
But besides that, we do monthly contests. And so, this past month, we partnered up with a company called Po Campo, which makes stylish bike bags that can be taken off your bike and then worn as, like, a purse or a handbag. And so, they sponsored the prize, which is one of their bags, and whoever kind of gave the highest quality and quantity of crowdsourcing reviews and miles ridden they're the winner of the contest for this month of June.
VICTORIA: That's very cool. I love to see that and hear about what strategies people have for engaging with their users within the app. I'm curious to go back to, you know when you two first met, how did you know that you were going to be good partners to work on this project together?
TRISHA: One of the ways that we knew that was because we had first been introduced to each other from our mutual friend who is a close friend of both of ours, and she had been telling the other person about each other. And it was one day where we just met up, and we really clicked.
But, at that point, Maggie was looking for someone who could work on the mobile development, and I didn't have any experience with that. However, I joined a club, which Maggie was leading, which was called The Women's Entrepreneurship Group. And we got a chance to work together and plan out many events, including a large conference right before COVID hit.
Like, we saw how we'd worked together. We really enjoyed it. And we had very similar aspirations and motivations towards entrepreneurship. When I had the chance to basically join what Maggie was already working on with Pointz in the summer of 2020, I knew that that was going to be a great opportunity. And we decided to become co-founders by the end of the summer.
VICTORIA: That's very cool. And I know how important it is to have the right team together to work on a project like this and to start something up from scratch. So, were there other big turning points? And you mentioned COVID, so I'm curious how that affected the growth and progress of this effort.
MAGGIE: Yeah, to be honest, in the heart of COVID, like 2020, we weren't really built yet. So, it didn't quite affect us a whole lot, just because the product didn't get launched until the spring of 2020 to actually, you know, kind of publicly. But there were a couple of other turning points in our company, one of them was Techstars and kind of the progress we made during Techstars.
We joined the accelerator, and we were having a bit of a hard time getting tech kind of pushed out really quickly. It was taking us a long time to build the features. And so, Trisha and I kind of evaluated why that was happening. And we came up with a process that worked a lot better, which we still use today. And speaking of team, we got a couple of really awesome teammates that made a huge difference on how quickly we could turn around features and bug fixes. And so, that was a really big turning point because we were able to iterate much more quickly and get feedback from our riders a lot faster. So that happened November, December of last year, of 2022.
The other big turning point, I would say, is the slider that we released in March of this past year of 2023. And so we were having a hard time retaining users and getting them to really like the routing because people who bike tend to be very opinionated. And if the route isn't exactly kind of how they wanted it, they would be upset. And so, we'd fix it for one group of users, and then we would upset another group that didn't want that, you know, added to the routing.
What we ended up doing was releasing this safety slider, which has the fastest routes on the left side of the slider and then the safest or the longest routes on the right side of the slider. And that really helped people get a wide variety of routes that fit their use case. And it's helped a ton with retention. And also, the feedback we were getting from users really changed from, like, really honing in on a very specific issue with routes that they were getting to general feedback about how we could enhance the app and keep people coming back more consistently.
TRISHA: I just want to emphasize again that, yeah, the team is really critical. And, like, on our team, we have really awesome people who are 10xers and just great. Also, have someone who worked at MapQuest and has...I think our combined mapping experience is around 20-plus years. So it's really awesome to have that sort of a team together.
VICTORIA: Yes. And, you know, talking about it now on the podcast, in retrospect, I'm sure it all seems like it came together, and it was kismet, and everything just worked. But was that how it really felt? Or were there moments where you doubted it and thought, maybe this isn't going to come together?
MAGGIE: Yeah, definitely. There were moments of that feeling. One thing that gave us a lot of confidence was getting to the point where we felt like we could really iterate quickly and release features at a consistent and predictable cadence. So that gave us confidence that you know, there is a process for this, and there's a process of gathering user feedback and rider feedback, and then translating that into features, or bug fixes, or UI fixes. I think that gave me a lot of confidence that we could solve it.
But, of course, it always takes a lot longer than you expect. And our advisor, Anuj, always says that 80% of what you're going to do won't work and 20% of it will. And it's all about how quickly you can iterate and figure out what works. And sometimes you get lucky, and it happens quicker. Or maybe you have unique insight into the problem, and you can guess, and it works out quicker. But I don't know; I definitely think it's been a learning process for everyone on our team.
VICTORIA: That's great advice. And now that you've got your velocity up and you have your confidence, what's on the horizon? Are there new features that you all are working on that you're excited about?
TRISHA: Yeah, so we're really excited about leaning into the whole generative AI trends that are happening, especially with ChatGPT and others. One thing that we've been hearing from most of our riders, people who use Pointz, is that using the app to create routes, which will allow them to explore new places, go to a new coffee shop that they've been hoping to go to but just don't know how to actually get there is critical. And most of our riders on Pointz are people who are new to a city. Maybe they've only lived there for a max of one year or less. So, exploring the area around them is really important to them, and that's why they use Pointz.
And so, leaning into that, we're going to be releasing, in the next couple of weeks, a new explore feature where someone can go and, you know, describe to Pointz what type of route or...not even route, what type of things they want to see in a city, and Pointz will come up with that. It'll learn their preferences and continue to suggest really awesome places to get to, which they can do car-free, basically, through bikes, because they can be safe and, you know, they can rely on this app to get them through the city safely.
VICTORIA: That's really exciting. And I'm excited to try it out myself [laughs] once you have that feature launched. Maybe you can tell me how that feature plays into...or what your success really looks like for Pointz in the next six months.
MAGGIE: Yeah, so I think that feature is something that will be, I mean, of course, we got to test it, but I think that it will help people kind of use Pointz as an exploration tool more effectively. People are already using it for that, but it's not specifically built for exploration. Right now, it's built more for, I guess, routing to, you know, new places but not specifically, like, oh, let's go on a route that takes me through all these tourist destinations in the city I'm visiting. But this new feature will allow people to use it for that more.
And I think, overall, you know, our mission at Pointz is to help people feel comfortable riding bikes so that they can drive less and feel like they can get around in a sustainable fashion, rather than having to rely on their car so often. And this feature is tied to that in the sense of, like, people can use it as a tool to help them, you know, find the safe route or a route they're comfortable with, and then use it to explore an area but maybe a bit more geared towards, like, tourists or, you know, more recreational-type use cases.
VICTORIA: That's very cool. Thank you so much for sharing that. And what is your biggest challenge to achieving that success?
MAGGIE: I think biking is a first step in that process of helping people feel like they can be more car-light or car-free, you know, use their car less. There are obviously a ton of other factors that go into whether or not you're driving, or you're taking a bike, or you're taking public transportation. And, you know, our next steps after we have really nailed this product are to explore those opportunities and build tools that help people choose alternative transportation more often. That's what we're excited about going into the future.
You know, there's a ton happening in cities all across the U.S., not only for biking but also investments in transit, infrastructure, and whatnot. So, you know, young people and people of all ages...I think a lot of people feel comfortable and that they don't want to be sitting in traffic a whole lot [laughs] because that's not fun for anyone. And, you know, traffic and congestion is always frustrating. So, as much as we can reduce that, I think that's the mission of our company. And, of course, it takes a ton of scale. But it's a big goal, but we're going after it.
VICTORIA: That's great. You know, I heard about a town in the U.S. that actually had banned cars and was pedestrians only for the whole town. It's like, what a great idea. [laughs] But I love it. I love that you're working on it. And I wonder now, you know, you're a couple of years into it. If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you first started this project, what advice would you give yourself?
MAGGIE: For me, I would say to get a minimal viable product more minimal, [chuckles] so reduce it to, like, a single feature, get it out quickly, and start getting feedback more quickly from, like, a very practical, you know, piece of advice.
And then, like, an overall piece of advice would be just to be more confident earlier on. It took a long time for me to gain the confidence of, like, being a thought leader in the space. And, you know, I felt like I was young, so there were all these people that knew more than me. But I think everyone has a really unique perspective, and if you really lean into that and share that with the world, it can inspire a lot of people. And you just have to be confident enough to do that.
TRISHA: Yeah, I definitely second what Maggie just said. I think also from the tech perspective, if you're someone who is maybe more inexperienced, like, I just got out of college and did this, and I have never worked a full-time job before anywhere except this. And so I think there was a lot of doubt that I had of being able to lead the technical side because I didn't have 20 years experience working somewhere.
But, actually, at the end of the day, that doesn't matter. It just matters that you're able to be in touch with what it takes to build certain features and talk to the users, or your riders, or whoever because they're the ones who are going to be dictating whether this is a success or not based on what you build. It's really not good if you're building and wasting a lot of resources and time on features which nobody wants or nobody uses. And so, that's been core to why I think I've gotten a lot of confidence in being able to be, like, the tech leader in this app and in this space.
VICTORIA: Yeah, I'm curious to hear more about that. You touched on this really being your first full-time job. So, how do you build your personal brand as an executive leader in this company that you're building?
TRISHA: For anyone who does startups, they'll know that it's a lot of figuring it out as you go, and things that you're taught in school don't necessarily translate well to the startup world because, like, I did, like, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. I did operating systems. I built a whole bunch of random stuff in school, and I studied for hours and hours.
Of a lot of that, the most important thing, which actually translates to working in my field, is the perseverance to, like, keep going and working really hard. Otherwise, none of that stuff which I learned honestly translates. I had to learn everything myself with regards to building mobile apps. And I think the foundations were really critical from school but not really much of the hours of studying. I don't think that that's necessary, but I think it's necessary to build that sort of perseverance mindset.
VICTORIA: That makes sense sort of to reflect that back a little bit, just having the perseverance to keep pushing, and keep learning, and keep understanding what is it going to take to build the features that you want? And that's really the core of being a CTO, right?
TRISHA: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
VICTORIA: And, Maggie, I wonder about you as well, like, what resources are you drawing on to really perform as a CEO for this company?
TRISHA: One thing that I read a lot is...it's more product-focused, actually, but it's product and growth-focused. It's Lenny's Newsletter, which I mentioned earlier. I use that as a resource a lot. I listen to their podcasts, and I read their articles.
And then secondly, I interact a lot with other CEOs and founders because I think that's one of the best ways you can learn is from other people who are in it right now, maybe are a couple of steps ahead of you, or who have done it before. And so, I lean into that quite a bit. And just, you know, try to get advice from people, take what makes sense, and apply it to what we're working on.
VICTORIA: That sounds great, yeah. I can relate to that; just building your personal network with people who are in similar roles helps you stay in touch and understand what other challenges people are facing and what you might face someday, right? [laughs] That's really cool. I love that you have all that set up.
And is there anything else that you all would like to promote today?
MAGGIE: I would just say to anybody who's interested in biking or maybe is, like, a beginner rider, we'd love to have you try out the app and then explore your area and give it a try one weekend when you have some time and see if you feel more confident, you know, given the routes that are on more green and protected roads.
VICTORIA: I'm really excited to be talking to you because I am that person. I need this app. [laughs] I'm excited to try it out. Thank you, Maggie and Trisha, for joining us today. [laughs] It was a really great conversation, and I'm excited to follow along and see what happens with Pointz in the coming years.
You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at giantrobots.fm. If you have questions or comments, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find me on Twitter @victori_ousg.
This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Thank you for listening. See you next time.
ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.Support Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots