Diogo Sarilio is like many other entrepreneurs who have come to Net Solutions over the years. He had an idea for a product that he believed the market would respond to—if only it were available. All he needed was a technical team that could understand his vision and help bring it to life.
Diogo’s idea? An innovative, app-based platform called Avance that would provide video-training courses, helping employees improve their professional soft skills along the following eight core dimensions:
The Panamanian native founded a startup called Elev8 and set out to create Avance. He spent several months fleshing out the details of this micro-mentoring portal, creating wireframes, and exploring different ways to implement his ideas. This proved more challenging than he originally imagined.
When Diogo began looking for technical partners, he received quotes that were too high considering his limited budget. On top of that, many of the companies he interviewed seemed to lack the technical expertise required to build the app he envisioned.
The solution? Rather than building an intricate, all-powerful app from the start, Diogo realized that his best option was to adopt the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) model.
With an MVP, teams work to create a solid product with core-features only—one that is fit to enter the market place but designed to solicit feedback from early users to validate the idea, working forward to create a product that is increasingly relevant to the target audience. The ultimate goal, of course, is to deliver something perfectly adapted to tangible market demands.
An MVP model not only makes it less expensive to launch—it reduces the time, energy, and capital spent developing features that the audience may not even want or need. Instead, the startup can channel all its resources toward creating features they believe, based on evidence, that customers will love.
When we gave them the wireframes, they quickly came back to us with a good look and feel. Normally, a development team wouldn’t really care about a product’s design.
Based on this shift in strategy, Diogo began searching for development partners that specialized in MVP development. That’s when he found Net Solutions, a company with a proven track record in creating MVPs. This allowed him to enter the market at a reasonable budget while offering a solid product that would get noticed.
Diogo felt immediately validated regarding his decision to work with his new-found partners when Net Solutions’ team first began offering feedback on his wireframes. He was surprised and impressed by their level of involvement, the probing questions they asked, and the suggestions they made for improvement.
Soon after Net Solutions began work, Covid-19 spread to every nation on earth, and the world was forced to change its work habits. People began working remotely, but that didn’t stop Net Solutions from meeting its commitments. Taking it in stride, Net Solutions delivered the MVP within six months, despite some changes to the project scope. After all, adaptability is the hallmark of Agile development.
In the end, the MVP platform had all the major features that Diogo envisioned, including the following.
Focus on Companies: Companies could sign up with Avance and then have their employees sign up to improve their soft skills.
Custom Courses: Depending on the requirements of the company, the course creators (referred to as “mentors” on Avance) could create additional, short, video-based internal training courses guided by custom requests from specific companies.
Intuitive Apps for End-users: The mobile apps for users, available on both iOS and Android phones, allowed users to browse available courses based on the skills they wanted to develop. Each course ended with a test to evaluate progress in eight areas, shown in an intuitive spider graph. Participants also received a downloadable checklist highlighting the key takeaways after completing each course.
The graph highlighted strengths and weaknesses, nudging users to improve and providing positive reinforcement when they moved the needle. Voice-of-the-Customer feedback has since revealed that the graph’s animation and visuals stand out, making it one of the most praised features of the app.
Gamification: The Net Solutions team worked with Diogo to create a gamified system that awarded points for various activities. These points move users through the system, prompting them to keep coming back and continue improving their skills.
The deliverables were on point. Due to changes in the scope, we re-adjusted timelines, but Net Solutions delivered on time. They implemented everything in the initial scope and provided suggestions, which saved us money. I would recommend them to other companies.
Early on, Diogo realized that for the MVP to take hold and gain popularity, videos needed to load quickly on mobile phones, even in low-bandwidth conditions.
To achieve high-speed loading, Net Solutions stored the videos on Amazon Warehouse Services S3 (AWS), and they used AWS transcoder behind the custom player they built. This resulted in adapted streaming for all content users.
Net Solutions also realized they needed a straightforward system that made it easy for everyone involved to create and manage course content and permissions.
To this end, the Net Solutions team built a powerful Django-based back-end for the portal that included several helpful administrative features, including the following.
Mentor Management: The MVP allowed administrators to easily add or remove course creators (mentors). It also provided stats on the courses.
Course Management: The platform made it easy for mentors to create custom courses from based on available content or from scratch, and to upload that content to the platform.
Company Management: The MVP made it easy for admins to manage employee accounts. The company management features allowed admins to easily add or remove accounts. It also enabled them to maintain an employee roster provided by the company, granting access to eligible employees. In fact, they could even import a list of users, giving them access to the app in a streamline fashion.
Analytics & Reporting: The reporting system empowers admins to track key parameters for each employee and display insightful reports.
Net Solutions showed us their professionalism from the very beginning. In the first two weeks, we already had the first sprint done, and their team came back with impressive results.
Despite launching in the middle of a major health crisis, Avance managed to gain traction and get noticed in the competitive world of training and development.
Thanks to the app’s intuitive, gamified design, helpful administrative features, and exceptional content, Avance has managed to sign up many new clients. What’s even more significant is that the end-users—the employees who work for Avance’s clients—remain actively engaged and consistently provide positive feedback.
Net Solutions produced impressive deliverables on time. The team provided tools that supported frequent communication and adapted their schedule to streamline collaboration. They offered cost-effective recommendations, which ensured a valuable partnership.