MVP development stages drawn on chalkboard

Why We Partnered with a Product Lab to Build Our Direct Messaging MVP

A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers and validate a product idea early in the product development cycle. Follow the creative process that brought our one-of-a-kind direct messaging platform to life.

A Start-up Is Born

Like most of us experience from time to time, the creators at SwayDM received too many messages (email, text, DMs) and their attention was lost. They wanted a solution for cutting through the clutter and started working on an idea that would revolutionize direct messaging.

Behold the launch of the SwayDM beta app, the first step in a successful journey toward monetizing and prioritizing your inbox. 

This is our story, from concept to launch. 

In this blog:

Why We Partnered with a Product Lab

SwayDM is the brainchild of an experienced entrepreneur who founded several other successful companies and a team of tech-savvy individuals who wanted to build a solution to a problem that nearly everyone has: too much communication! Our team validated the problem and built a gated messaging platform as a solution for our core user base.

Since the SwayDM team had a hefty to-do list of our own and needed to rely on another team to work out the technical details, partnering with a well-regarded product lab was the ideal solution. 

We had a lot of great choices but ultimately selected Viget, a product lab known for balancing form and function in digital platforms and for helping companies scale and grow across the globe. 

Research and Development

Viget conducted an extensive market study to validate the SwayDM concept and identify strategic areas of opportunity to focus on. We were confident that content creators would embrace a messaging app that allowed them to monetize and prioritize their communication with followers, senders, and potential business partners. 

Various charts and graphs on a desk with an employee typing on laptop looking at market research

Intensive Research with Influencers 

Viget took our research to the next level, with far-reaching validation that included conversations with real influencers.

Influencers and content creators told us:

  • They wanted a way to control their incoming messages
  • They liked the idea of a digital gatekeeper that enabled them to focus on those who really wanted to get in touch with them
  • They appreciated the value of being able to monetize their time spent responding to messages, where they could set their own rates

Viget used this invaluable market research to outline the necessary tech development. They shared their MVP plan with our team. Once approved, the first framework for the SwayDM app began. 

Product Development

SwayDM’s strategy was to go to market with a strong MVP, focused on the features that would validate our product, with a design for growth in mind. 

We worked with Viget to sequence a list of MVP features that would make SwayDM marketable, such as:

  • Elegant, easy-to-use messaging
  • Mobile-centered design 
  • Fast, secure payment and withdrawal
  • Scalable design to facilitate steady and robust growth

We integrated with Stripe, the most reliable internet payment interface on the market. 

Meanwhile, Back in Columbus…

While the combined development team built out our MVP product, the remaining SwayDM team worked hard at our Columbus HQ preparing the company for product launch:

  • Defining our message to both earners and payers 
  • Establishing brand guidelines and expanding our digital presence 
  • Writing content for our website and blog
  • Developing a kick-ass marketing strategy 

We Have an MVP!

In just 12 weeks, we had a highly-functional MVP web app that included Stripe payments. 

Our revolutionary paid messaging app was ready for content creators and social media influencers.

SwayDM version 1.0 includes:

  • Sleek design
  • Easy-to-use menus
  • Secure payment and withdrawal functions
  • Free technical support

Lessons Learned from Our Partnership 

Creating an app from the ground up was a new experience for our team. We knew there would be a few bumpy patches, as well as unexpected issues that caused some delays. But what we learned made us stronger and created an even better MVP than we could imagine. 

Casual business meeting with young employees telling jokes during a break

Communication Is Key

Problems, solutions, and new ideas took a little more effort to communicate with a new team outside of SwayDM. The combined team had to ensure all details were shared correctly. Creativity is subjective by nature, and sometimes we had to go back to the drawing board. Other times, our initial discussions led to valuable innovation on the first attempt.

With better communication and a cadence for multiple weekly meetings, we smoothed our collaboration process and eventually got into a solid groove. 

Same Page in a Shared Space

It sometimes felt like we had two separate teams – Viget and SwayDM. They had new tools and platforms we had to learn, and at first, we weren’t used to communicating and discussing tradeoffs. 

Eventually, both teams decided to move onto one Slack channel within a shared workspace, which increased efficiency and helped everything move more smoothly. 

Dissenting Voices Are Vital

As consultants, Viget “worked for us.” However, the best products are born by way of discussion. Our Design Sync was a prime example. Early on, our team would write the product brief and hand it off to Viget for designs. Once we became more comfortable, we brainstormed and shared designs with lower fidelity, which let us move more nimbly. 

Team members must be comfortable enough to disagree with each other. Viget teammates felt they could push back and argue their side, explaining their thought-process behind certain decisions. At the same time, we became more comfortable incorporating the values and mission into the design process and keeping everything aligned. We made better product choices due to those discussions, which is crucial with a start-up. 

Final Thoughts 

The overall value of working with a product lab is sound. We have a scalable, functioning web app and a growing community of users. While SwayDM is a work in progress, all signs point to success.

Ready to SwayDM?

If you’re an influencer or content creator who is ready to earn by responding to messages from your target audience, SwayDM is ready for you. Right now, SwayDM is invite-only. To request an invite to join, click here: https://sway.dm/info

Katie Bradley

Katie is Head of Marketing at SwayDM, a paid messaging app. She has been published across a variety of digital media sources and tweets in her spare time (@ktbee21).

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