Perk Ally: Following Up with the Lean Startup Weekend Winners

Recently Dallas hosted the first ever Lean Startup Machine (LSM) event. For those who aren’t familiar with the three-day-intensive workshop, it’s been organized in various cities and functions as “a workshop & educational series. [The] focus is on teaching founders a process through case studies and hands-on mentoring.”

We’re excited to see Dallas participating in the Lean Startup Machine movement! Kara Brown (DEC Ambassador, Tech Wildcatters Alum) and Kyle Taylor (TechMill) organized the first LSM for Dallas. “As first-time organizers of LSM, Kyle Taylor and I didn’t know what to expect,” said Kara. “However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the group really sink their teeth into the lean methodology and abide by the process and fundamentals throughout the weekend.”

The winners were the SimplePerks (now branded as Perk Ally) team. Alexis Nguyen pitched the original idea. “I pitched at this event because I had an idea that I thought might solve many people’s pain point with loyalty programs. I also wanted to work with cool people on a team and learn from them. I was not disappointed.”

Alexis was joined by Ramesh Sampeth, Imran Charania, and Matthew Welch, who had experienced the pain that Alexis discussed in her pitch.

“I had experienced this pain –  where I had to fill out long forms of information for rewards programs, only to get stuff that wasn’t relevant to me or the things I buy. When Alexis pitched the idea, I saw an opportunity to find a better solution to this problem,” said Imran.

Matthew felt it was the best idea to execute on. “Of the ideas available the Perk Ally idea seemed the most simple and easiest to implement, both of which were seen as positive attributes.”

The team were somewhat familiar with the LSM model. “I knew quite a bit about the ‘lean startup’ concept before the weekend because I went through the NEXT class last year. I’ve also read Eric Ries’ book, taken Steve Blank’s course on Udacity, and read the Business Model Canvas. But I really have to say, reading is no substitute for doing,” Alexis said.

Their idea changed throughout the weekend as they worked through their plan. “The core problem we were trying to solve did not change. But we changed who we were solving it for. We focused on signing up consumers rather than signing up businesses unlike every other loyalty program business,” said Ramesh.

“The overall LSM weekend process was well laid out,” says Alexis. “By giving us ample time to get out of the building and time during the day to check-in with the mentors, we were able to learn and pivot quickly in a short amount of time.”

The most surprising thing that the team learned over the weekend was from their target customer. “[P]eople would actually deal with the hassle of having lots of cards and trying to pry them out of their wallets at stores and restaurants if it meant they could save. They didn’t have any awareness or had never thought there could be an easier way,” says Imran.

The most challenging part of the weekend seemed to be the Javelin board, but the team quickly adapted to using the tool. “As we worked through the iterations and pivots as a team, I understood it better each time. The collaboration and team work that everyone put into LSM really helped me learn,” said Alexis.

perk allySo, will the Perk Ally team continue to work on their business?

“The answer is a resounding ‘hells yes!’ We have an awesome team who all challenge each other, yet work very well together. We will continue to use the lessons and concepts learned from LSM as we move forward in building Perk Ally. We have had a few angel investors, as well as developers, approach our team about the Perk Ally concept and they are interested in being a part of our journey. We are excited about the future and if you’d like to be kept updated on our status, head on over to our temporary landing page bit.ly/simpleperks and sign up! Please excuse the temporary landing page as it was built over 1.5 hours during the LSM weekend. Our official site will be www.perkally.com and that should be up early July. See you there!”

 

Rachel Winstead
winstead.rachel@gmail.com

Rachel is a freelance writer and works at Soap Hope in downtown Dallas. She hates the term "disrupt," tweets about startups, and appreciates a well-crafted hashtag.