Remember that app-building competition we ran in March? The one where we built a not for profit app idea for free? Well - we spoke to James and Nick from Semble - this year's Build My App competition winners - about how they found the competition, how the app is going for them and what they're now looking forward to. 

In a potentially bold move, we decided to publish the chat, criticism and all, for the wider internet to read. If you're interested in the process, the outcome or maybe are already thinking about entering the competition next year - have a read! 


How did you hear about the Build My App Competition?

(NG) - We heard about Build My App from a Whatsapp group that I’m a member of. The group has around 70 members and is for sustainability professionals. They were really pleased to hear that we had won!  


What made you decide to apply?

(NG) - It was a good fit timing-wise. James had been thinking of our idea for an app for some time, and the idea was pretty much ready but we weren’t sure how to take it forwards. We also really liked the general ethos of Studio Graphene, and the idea of you wanting to use your skills to ‘give back’. This is core to our ethos - working out how companies can give back - so really resonated with us. 


How long had you been thinking about this idea?

(NG) - The idea was probably about a year in the making - we started working on it properly in Summer 2018. 


(JD) - I had been on a course to develop my UX design skills where I was given the remit to develop this idea whilst learning myself. The long term plan was to use this to come back to the team with a more scoped out plan and then think about how we could get it built. We certainly didn’t foresee that this kind of opportunity would land! 


 (NG) - This was the first piece of tech that we have built in this way, but we always have a number of ideas formulating. 


What were your expectations and how did they match/compare to the experience?

(NG) - Maybe a bit naively on our part - we thought we would be able to immediately launch the product. Taking forward the idea from concept to reality - we didn’t have any specific expectations of that process, but it was really eye opening how you approached this. The depth you go into in the planning phase was very professional.   


(JD) - For me personally, I had no idea how to set my expectations because obviously it is a competition, but we found that even by the time you’d chosen the winner you’d already done a lot of work and investigating into the project which reassured us that you wanted to create a good product, rather than just do something to make you look good. 


(NG) - One part of the experience that sticks in my mind was having been shortlisted for the idea, you got the entire team on a Zoom call, and I realised I was chatting to 10 people. It was really nice to be speaking to real people 


(JD) - One of the great parts for me was working with the team - meeting all people from different areas of the company and seeing how we all work together


What was it like working on such a rapid project?

(NG) - Because of the way the competition ran, it meant it hit our busiest couple of weeks of the year so it was quite a squeeze.  We had just opened our Bristol office the week before, and we did get some flack from people about how much time we were putting into this. We recognised that it was an important thing to throw our time into, but it might have been nice to have some more negotiation around when the project kicked off to help with planning our time. 


(JD) - That being said - it was really great to see it all come together so quickly. 


Best bit?

(NG) - Meeting the team! Everyone was really passionate and professional. Also seeing visually the first iteration of the app come to life. It had come from a concept on paper to something that was real. 


(JD) - I’ve never personally been involved in building an app before and building something that is a ‘product’ with a tangible output was really interesting and a personal highlight for me. Also learning how you guys work and seeing how the different skill sets and expertise come together was great 


Worst bit? 


(JD) - We put quite a lot of pressure on ourselves to not ‘miss’ the opportunity and give it the time it deserved. There were definitely times where we were struggling to keep up with the feedback that we were expected to give and there was a lot going on.


(NG) - For me, we had to make some tough decisions around de-scoping because of time constraints. That felt frustrating. 


(JD) - Yeah, it was still an amazing amount to get through in a week, but that was hard. But at least we now can see the potential for where it can go next!


Were there any aspects that you weren’t prepared for?


(JD) - From my side, the rebranded name was a surprise. We didn’t expect to have brand work included as part of the competition. It was great because it helped the app come to life and it looks really good, but this also added some extra brain strain to the process - there were a lot of big decisions to make in quite a short space of time. 


Is it a process you’d recommend?

(JD) - 100% - organisations of our scale and Non Profits don’t have big tech resource within our team. It’s been one of those opportunities that you dream of, and when it comes about it’s been brilliant. There are always lots of good ideas in our team but bringing them to life is the challenge.


(NG) - It has been really eye-opening, and everyone who got involved really enjoyed the process. 


How has the app been received by the wider semble team?

(JD) - Very well so far! But to date, there have only been 4 of us that have properly worked on it. We’ve shared updates with the team but are planning to do a big reveal shortly... 


What is the next step?

(JD) - We’re picking the project back up in July and starting onboarding hosts. We’re thinking of building an onboarding deck that we talk them through to get feedback on the idea, and get their experiences added to the app so we can demonstrate the value the app can bring to them. 


There’ll be a period of testing and a potential piece of development between Aug/Sep for any potential bugs that might crop up. In September we plan to launch with some volunteers - maybe starting with a London-centric launch. That way we can get the supply from the hosts, and follow it up with the demand from the volunteers. 


Any advice for next year’s entrants? 

(JD) - Be aware of resource expectations. Try as much as possible to resource this properly and build capacity in the team to ensure you really have the time to make the most of and optimize the experience. And absolutely go for it!