Hi Everyone! 

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted publicly about what we’ve been working on at Ryze, so I figured (and have heard) that it’s about time I offer up an update. I’m happy to oblige! 

Catching Up

So first, let me take you back to my post from January 15th titled Ryze Product Plans for 2020

In the post, I shared a few of the key things we’ve been learning from having our version 1.0 live since September of 2019 and what we’ll be working on to address those lessons learned. For review, those three key lessons were:

  1. We need to improve the user onboarding experience.
  2. We need to get more rewards live in the app.
  3. We need to make browsing and discovering those rewards faster and more enjoyable.

In that post from January, I went on to also describe the three key actions we were taking in response to these improvements to be made. Let me review each action item one at a time. 

  1. We had plans to switch our data aggregator. To note, our “data aggregator” is the secure data service partner we use to pull in the transactions from your linked debit or credit card account so we can accurately attribute rewards to your account. 

On this front, we made the decision not to make a change. There were a few main reasons, with the most substantial being that if we were to switch, we may have to spend months rebuilding our backend systems to accommodate a new data structure and ensure our logic and formulas work properly with this new data. At this stage, we decided we could spend our engineering resources in more impactful places. You’ll see where we have decided to invest a bit later in this post. 

  1. We had plans to launch our self-serve web app so merchants of all sizes and in all places, physical or online, could manage their campaigns on Ryze. Over the year we learned this is no small undertaking. 

It will be taking us either a lot more time or a lot more money to launch this service to the standard we have set for this company. We’ll be working on this soon, but not immediately. This is still certainly a part of our long term roadmap and strategic vision for the company. 

  1. We had plans to totally redefine how to search for and discover rewards in our mobile app. As we went down the path of gathering feedback, it seemed clear this would be the area where a big improvement would give our product the most significant overall gain in user satisfaction and usefulness.  

I have directly been working on this and have designed and tested no less than about 15 different iterations of ideas to improve search and discoverability. First it was adding more sliders to the home page with that whole 3 F’s idea I talked about in the last post. Then it became redesigning how we catalog and make rewards searchable in our database. Then it became a personal existential crisis. What is the essence of this product and our company? What the hell am I doing with my life? Why am I up at 1am jamming to EDM but nearly in tears after pressing a wrong hotkey in Figma for the thirtieth time? Will anyone ever love me again if my startup fails?

Eventually and finally, I ended upon the realization and observation that our home page was getting in the way of the reward finding experience, not enhancing it. This is a really important insight I’ll talk more about in a bit with our revised designs and plans for how we’ll end 2020.  

Before I get to our new and improved 2020 plans, though, you may probably be wondering what the hell else did we work on these past 9 months? That’s a lot of time to go by to see no real progress being made in public, especially for a consumer technology startup. And that’s a totally accurate and fair take. It is a hell of a lot of time, but jeez oh lordy we were still busy. 

Now, I unfortunately can’t be as forthcoming and transparent with the whole story right now as I’d like to be. A few significant things are still in motion and remain uncertain, but I will just say one word: fundraising. 

Okay, two more words actually: it sucks. 

If you’re a founder you can probably fill in the rest and get an idea of what we’ve been through. If you’re somehow a young founder in the Midwest building a marketplace business focused on serving a young adult customer base reading this, you know exactly what I’m alluding to. Also, if that is the case, send me an email and let’s commiserate. 

Looking Forward

Okay, enough complaining, no one likes a complainer. What the hell are we doing about it to forge a path forward and help millions beat their debt and build wealth sooner through their everyday spending? 

I’m glad you asked! 

Let’s go back to our key insight learned above on that third point: our home screen was getting in the way of discovery, not enhancing it. 

With this insight, we had a renewed focus on the essential job-to-do that our app must be the best at. Tom and our developer Pace really helped me realize this and helped me iterate on countless versions of our Figma designs to land upon something we think will be a huge step forward. See below for a sneak peek at our latest design.  

We removed the home page entirely to focus our app on the experience of browsing rewards immediately.
We’ve also totally restructured how we organize and enable the filtering of a search or browsing session. We continue to iterate on how to make this as visually engaging and enjoyable as possible.

For all you aspiring product people out there, I think this is the golden rule of product design and the hardest one to follow: be ruthless defining the essential function of an app. If something doesn’t enhance that essential function remove it. 

We’re working on development of this whole new redesign, we’re calling it Ryze 2.0, and these specific enhancements right now. There’s a lot more to come and to be included in this 2.0 update, so stay tuned! Much more to come this November when we plan to launch 2.0 to the public and relegate Ryze 1.0 to the annals of history.

Some of the other big additions for Ryze 2.0 include many more student loan servicer payout options, clearer delineation between pending and earned rewards, and many backend improvements to make sure every user earns their rewards faster.

Wrap It Up

I think this is a good place to wrap things up for this post. In review, plans changed, we were super busy but have nothing significant to announce yet as things are still in motion, and we learned a few big lessons about what our product needs to be and do. 

In addition to that, I have a ton of pieces of advice I’ve gathered over the past two years and many more lessons learned. I think going forward, my writing will cover those sorts of things and give regular updates on our product lessons and where we are in development. 

If you’d be interested to see those future posts as well as a bit of a clearer look into the inner workings of what we’re staying busy with, feel free to subscribe to my monthly email newsletter. In that, I give high level reports on overall company progress and struggles. I’ve been writing this for potential investors and advisors for the past couple years now, but I think to support and share with other Midwest founders and offer our users and partners even more transparency, it might be cool to open this up a bit more broadly. 

If you’ve read this far goodbye, I love you, and I hope you have a very pleasant day. 

Phil 

Founder & CEO