Rapid Prototyping for Finance

October 12, 2015

By Consulting Group

Last week Dominic Crosthwaite from Black Swan Partners and Matthew Lenzi from our partners Hanno joined forces to lead a rapid prototyping workshop at Level 39 in Canary Wharf.  In attendance were the six finalists of the 3DS Fintech Challenge:Algodynamix, CheckRecipient, Passfort, Quarule, My Stock News and Percentile.  A brief round of introductions kicked off the workshop with each start-up explaining what they hoped to learn from the event and Matt outlined the basics of rapid prototyping.

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is the process of a designing and creating products over very short periods of time, measured in hours and days. In contrast to traditional development methods, it emphasises iterative design over extensive documentation and seeks to use innovative techniques such as real-time feedback and designing directly in a browser to speed up delivery.

Hanno see it as much a philosophy as a technical skill and Matt emphasised a number of core beliefs necessary to be successful:

  • Explore new ideas, learn through actions and get real time feedback. Hanno’s preference is using design thinking
  • Build communities on social media as co-creation is key – there is a group of people for everything and early adopters will be supportive

Identify Your Target Audience

A prerequisite of successful rapid prototyping is the identification of the target audience. Dominic explained its importance and how Black Swan Partners approach these challenges for clients. The obvious risk is that if you collaborate with the wrong users, then you will invalidate the benefits of rapid prototyping and could develop with the wrong end user in mind. This process of client identification includes:

  • Review of publicly available marketing reports and data sources including the FCA’s Customer Spotlight segmentation research
  • Paid for services such as Experian’s financial strategy segments
  • Where relevant, analysis of existing client activity data

The analysis of existing data and information rather than bespoke research can accelerate the learning around audience segments and enable the full benefits of rapid prototyping to be realised.

Uber from a Rapid Prototyping Perspective

Uber London was struggling to sign up drivers at the same rate as in the US and asked Hanno to create a website to attract and onboard drivers – in 2 weeks. The first step was to get an Uber account, use it to get to work every day and talk with the drivers. Writing a journal allowed Hanno to utilise the the driver’s feedback and through a combination of collaborative tools, Hanno co-created the site with both the Uber team and the drivers Uber was targeting. Through this process the cultural nuances between the US and the UK became apparent; the London drivers predominantly used mobiles instead of desktops, the majority highlighted English as their second language, wanted to be able to share the Uber opportunity with friends and classed driving as their full time job. Instead of lengthy and costly focus-groups, Hanno responded by creating a mobile first website written in clear and concise language that emphasised the flexibility of working hours and that could be easily shared.

We also took time to talk through another case study, Transcence, an excellent product that allows conversations to be transcribed onto smart phones in real-time, helping the hard of hearing engage in conversations. In one week, Hanno built and iterated through 10 prototypes and at the end of the sprint delivered several validated prototypes and insight into how to solve the next challenge. As well as the case studies, there was a lot of interest from the room in what tools are used in the process. Some of the key tools are listed below:

Tools Description
Google Docs Online document creation, storage and editing
Mural Online brainstorming, synthesis and collaboration
Skype Instant Messaging and video chat
Middleman Static websites
Bootstrap Responsive, mobile first projects
InVision Prototyping, collaboration and workflow platform
Balsamiq Wireframing platform
BugHerd Bug tracker and client feedback
Unsplash High resolution photos
Squarespace Website creation
Asana Work tracking
GitHub Software building


The work-shop then moved into an open discussion with all the participants discussing how rapid prototyping could apply to their start-ups both within a b2c and b2b context.

We received very positive feedback from participants, the sponsor Dassault Systems and their partner Deutsche Böurse. Everyone at Black Swan Partners and Hanno would like to wish the six finalists luck with the remainder of their accelerator programme!

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