What was the scope of their involvement?
I had wireframes and a business plan when I contacted them. They helped me develop more advanced wireframes and then, from there, built out a prototype, an alpha, a beta, and a released app. It took about a month to design and build out the prototypes from the wireframes. And app development took a total of five months for both iOS and Android - which is impressive considering the technical sophistication of the app. We had a clear idea of what we wanted going in but based on their engaged feedback and insightful advice, we made adjustments to the platform and are better off as a result. They also helped us put them in Google Play and iTunes.
The finished product is an Uber-like interface where instead of cars you see participating restaurants and food trucks. You click on the icon of the particular restaurant on the map and on the bottom it pops up white labeled which means an image of the restaurant or food truck. You click on that again and you scroll three options per. We limited it to three options to focus consumer attention on the inventory that the restaurants and food trucks want to move at that time. Food trucks can migrate across the map and you can track them in real-time, which is a solution that’s not currently out there.
It’s real-time interfacing on both sides. If a restaurant turns off, it disappears from the map. If a food truck turns on or changes its location, it updates real-time on the map. Restaurants and food trucks control their menu offerings and field the incoming orders in real-time, so they can manage their inventory and say yes or no on an order-by-order basis. On the consumer side, we built in an optional ‘friend finder’ where users can see where their friends are eating and when so they can jump into a meal with them. For consumers, it’s a passive way to advertise their meal plans to a closed network (at their option), giving contacts and friends a chance to join them for a meal - driving more business to restaurants. The app is intuitive and very simple on the front-end, but there’s a lot of friend finder functionality built into the backend, which was part of the sophistication.
For payment integration, we used Stripe. The way that works is that customers purchase books of electronic ‘tickets’, a book of 10 tickets costs a consumer $60 (or $6 per ticket). One ticket is redeemable for a lunch and two tickets are redeemable for a dinner. 3Advance had to do the backend work to make sure the remittance from the customer equals the $6 per ticket purchase price.
There’s also a rate and tip functionality. After a restaurant serves a meal, they close out the loop by clicking confirmed reserved and that prompts the user to rate and tip by thumbs up or thumbs down. The tips are one-off in terms of payment processing. Books are normally purchased all at once, but tipping is on an ad hoc basis.
On top of that, we gamify that charitable giving experience for consumers so that they can see how many meals they’ve helped us contribute to charity. For every 20 meals purchased a customer gets credit for five - and we reflect that contribution on a separate rewards screen. The rewards screen indicates their status/ranking among their closed group of friends (on a no-names basis) as well as the platform as a whole. For example, you could be ranked first out of your 12 friends and then in the top fifth percentile for the platform as a whole. We also built in the capability for people to donate tickets directly which would bump them up to 12 meals donated. We have a button in the rewards screen to donate tickets. You can opt to donate one, two, five, or ten which also integrates with the payment information. 3Advance had to create the mechanism to tally and keep track and accurately reflect our customers’ charitable contributions.
What is the team composition?
On the tech side, we had 10 different builders and designers at any one time. It was a full-time exercise on their part. We sapped up their resources because of some of the sophistication and changes that we put in front of them. Paul Murphy [Principal and Founder, 3Advance] was our point of contact. Paul and his team were great.
How did you come to work with 3Advance?
I wanted to keep it stateside and local and 3Advance is relatively well-known and very reputable in Washington D.C. tech circles. As a non-technical founder, one of the main things I found attractive about Paul and his team was Paul’s ability to connect and understand what my particular vision was and what I wanted. We were able to communicate well. I thought that was essential considering the scope of what we were trying to accomplish.
How much have you invested with them?
We spent between $200,000 and $300,000 - money well spent.
What is the status of this engagement?
I first contracted them in April where we had a few planning sessions. They came back with the prototype in May and then they started the full built out in mid-June which was the timeframe I was looking for. We plan to continue to utilize 3Advance for app maintenance for the foreseeable future.