The story of how we became winners
My name is Alejandro Hernández and I am a member of the team that received the first prize in the business solutions category in the first edition of the InnovaChallenge competition, thanks to the ‘Chances‘ application.
I work as a Project Manager in the 4andgo (www.4andgo.com) company, where we develop native multi-platform applications for customers that request our services. The truth is that during these last few years we have been very busy trying to do our best to create value apps for our customers. However, not one week goes by without somebody in the office presenting a ‘brilliant’ or ‘revolutionary’ idea that will break the market. In the end, problems of cost and time prevent us from carrying out these ideas. Nonetheless, we’re frustrated at knowing that there are few like us capable of imagining, designing and producing these projects in a centralized fashion in such little time.
Our experience during these years has also shown us how difficult (or impossible) it is to achieve a product that can compete in the AppStore and GooglePlay jungle without investing an enormous amount of money in promotion, having an important company brand as support or being blessed by a supreme power that makes you the current flappy bird.
This is how we found out about InnovaChallenge, the perfect excuse to encourage us to make something of our own that we could be proud of. The first thing that attracted us was the starting point: the data. An enormous amount of information that the Bank was going to place at our disposal, as unbelievable as it seemed. Many people still think that it is impossible to innovate in certain institutions. We, however were going to demonstrate otherwise, thanks to the Big Data challenge.
Also, if we were lucky, the prize would compensate for the initial investment. We went ahead and planned it one day over lunch and agreed to the following points.
1. The project would be dealt with as a secondary project, whereby any emergency or current project would have priority over it. Basically, this meant ‘lighting the midnight oil’.
2. The scope would be left open, so we would try to present something as limited as possible; but we didn’t know what we were going to be able to build with the current possibilities of development. Unfortunately (a bit of a mess at first) we were late finding out about the competition, which left us only 4 weeks to conceive the design and develop it.
The first step was the idea, which involved everyone in the company bringing a proposal from home and discussing it with the others. Some were luckier than others but they were all original, so we were able to choose which application we wanted to present.
– It had to be simple, first because we usually take our chances on specific functionalities so our apps are not some kind of unfathomable monster and secondly because we didn’t have a lot of time. We also decided to apply a ‘fiat design’ to make it even cleaner, applying only the necessary animation for optimal user experience.
– Users would have to reach their goal in a couple of steps; we didn’t want users to have to press more than twice on their screens to obtain valued information.
– When we heard Big Data, large visualization screens with color maps automatically came to mind, since we thought that was what most users would present. We were more interested in enhancing a functionality that would focus on the user’s sensation of “usefulness”.
– Of the three possible categories, we chose the business category, since we thought we had an idea that would suit the needs of some companies perfectly.
– We chose to use more data sources than those provided by BBVA so we could integrate other networks, such as Foursquare or Google Places.
– An finally the main concept, afterwards described as “An iPhone application intended for entrepreneurs that analyzes the possibilities of success of a business according to several variables, such as competition, area chosen and customer profiles”.
The first days were dedicated exclusively to design, so our art director, Juan Luis, began to draw screens and create the ‘Chances‘ brand. We immediately like what we saw and he encouraged us to work harder and find more time to complete everything we has agreed to.
The resulting work flow was as follows: the user selects a category (obtained from BBVA) and a location for the business; the application uses this information to return a flow of information that includes competitors (based on the location selected, a category correlation with Foursquare and the listing by popularity offered by this network), the customer profile and consumption times. In other words, 2 clicks = information return. Simple, right? In the end, the lack of time worked to our advantage and made us simplify the process, while benefiting the end user. We also added the possibility of exporting these data via e-mail, since we thought that this would make the process more professional.
And so, the verdict came in. I perfectly remember the moment I received the e-mail from the organization telling us that we had won. It was early morning – I got up from my chair and everyone in the office started hugging each other and jumping around like clowns. We couldn’t believe it, we had actually won! They had liked our work, and how! That compensated not only the weeks of development, but all the work we had done with 4andgo and all the effort invested up to the last moment. I can remember perfectly who I called and how my voice trembled each time I told the story. We made reservations for Christmas dinner that same day and all I can say is that the place we chose was slightly ‘upgraded’ for the celebration.
Time flew until BBVA called to invite us to present the application at an event in their Santa Bárbara offices. It was a special pleasure to come out on stage and explain our dear Chances out loud to the audience.
There are certainly other professions used to recognitions and awards, but I don’t think information technology or design is one of them. We live in a country where that sort of thing is more aligned with sports players, and you can’t imagine how happy it makes you until you receive the award and how it changes you. You discover your potential, your capacity, while your curiosity and will to improve increases. As in our case, it is the first success in a line of future ones.
Since the competition, we have continued to collaborate with BBVA in a tool similar to the one we created, while adapting some of its functionalities. Steps like this demonstrate that the Bank is committed to these initiatives and has a real interest in continuing to do so. It wants to take advantage of these technological leaps and enhance ideas generated by companies that are young but have a great deal of experience in the sector.
As for Chances… although it has not been published in public apps markets yet due to the restricted use of access to bank data, we hope that it will be soon so we have the possibility of offering it to the rest of the world.