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FounderNet

Objective

Create a new social networking service for Entrepreneur First, a London-based investment programme that supports engineers to build technology companies.

Duration

4 weeks

Deliverable

We designed and implemented a fully functional web application from scratch. Considered one of the top three projects of the year by our department at Imperial College London.

Role

The group consisted of 4 Computer Science students. I coded, designed and handled project management responsibilities.
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Problem

Unlike most investors and accelerator programmes, Entrepreneur First (EF) invests in individuals both pre-team and pre-idea. The annual cohort is selected by March but do not begin working together full-time until September.

During this time, it is crucial for the incoming 50 people to get to know each other and find out what areas others are interested in.
The only communication channel at the time was a Facebook group. This was not a suitable solution or scalable platform with the required features for the participants which were growing in numbers each year.

Research

In addition to interviewing current participants, we met multiple times with the Chief Executive and Head of Talent at EF throughout the project to understand the context and goals of the incoming cohort members:

The incoming chort members do not know each other and they often live far apart all over the UK and Europe. It is important that they can to introduce themselves to others, especially highlighting technical skills and entrepreneurial areas of interest.

They want to gain an overview of each other and connect with people that they may be interested in collaborating with when the programme begins in September.

As soon as they are accepted in March, members are encouraged to start thinking about potential startup ideas and talk with their peers. They need a way to discuss and develop these ideas together.

Once members have concrete startup ideas they should be able to collect all the information in one place and share it with others, especially to recruit more people with specific expertise.

Ideation and development

After conducting the customer and user research, we were able to create a rough specification of the most important features:

The solution was required to be a web application, so we used these insights to brainstorm different ideas in the team with paper sketches. These were discussed and then narrowed down through discussion and voting.

In the end, we opted for a web design which was clean and simple with a structure inspired by existing social networks so that we could focus on designing and developing the required custom features. We used the Bootstrap front-end framework which allowed us to quickly iterate on designs directly in HTML/CSS.

Solution

People list
The people list shows all cohort members with a card-based UI which reveals the name, photo and location of each person. To help find the most relevant people to you, it is possible to filter the list based on education, location, skills and interests.
Profiles
Profiles were designed to give a quick overview of a person without scrolling through pages of information. One can immediately learn about key things such as academic background, areas of expertise and interests. If a person seems interesting, you can add them to your private shortlist of people you would like to keep in mind.
Projects
Members can create projects around ideas they would potentially like to turn into companies. Once created, you can communicate your idea to all other members, gather feedback on it and find out if others are also excited about it.
Forums
The forums provide a place to discuss technology, business or anything else on people's minds. Sub-forums can be create around specific topics so that cohort members can share information, ask for advice and get to the know their peers. Each project also has its own public and private forum.
Newsfeed
The newsfeed is the first page shown when logged in and serves two purposes: Firstly, it shows any updates in the projects that a person is following to keep them in the loop. Secondly, it also shows other newly created projects in order to boost their visibility to other members.

Results

We did user testing using our MVP with four incoming cohort members. They were happy about the product but also gave us feedback which helped us understand what was important to them and what was not. This feedback helped us refine features and add missing ones before the project deadline.

In the end, both Entrepreneur First and our university were very happy with the product. We received a grade of 91%, putting our project in the top 3 out of 40 groups working on various web applications.

Personally, this was my first major web development project. I learnt a lot about designing and developing for the web, working closely with a client and project management in general.

Project report

For more information, please see our complete project report.



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