Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hey Londoners... You owe Harry a pint.

I just ran an experiment with my new (brilliant) friend Harry. In exchange for his help he got a copy of all my analytics and if his experiment leads to revenue in the UK he gets to keep (most of) it. Add him on LinkedIn.

The London Pilot Experiment
Greetings from the UK! I got in touch with Adam a few days ago to see if we could test out neighborrow in my fair city of London. He gave me a call in between his workshops in Paris, and threw down his own lean challenge:
“Run a one day experiment to see if you can get one person to successfully borrow anything on neighborrow”.
I asked people I knew (~10), targeted freebie and tech forums (100’s of eyeballs) and broadcast outreach on Twitter/LinkedIn (1000’s people). After 24 hours, 3 people (all already known to me) said they’d give it a go, of which 2 actually posted, and of which 1 looks like it will reach the target of Likes and comments. Here’s what I really learnt:
  1. People are suspicious of ‘free’ – 5/10 that I spoke to directly said they thought it was a scam, and I suspect others did but were too polite to say. Perhaps us Brits lack the audacity of Americans; perhaps we are not as familiar with communal concepts as mainland Europeans. Regardless, anywhere you go, the concepts of ‘buying’, ‘ownership’ and ‘no such thing as a free lunch’ are deeply ingrained.
  2. Don’t let Lean make you lazy – in hindsight, there are some very easy steps I should have taken in the first half hour to improve the user journey, thereby improving the level of learning from the experiment (as many users didn’t get past the ‘shady’ website and ‘outdated’  facebook page). This was a reminder that the MVP does not mean the minimum that is workable; it’s the highest return on investment (learnings) vs risk (effort spent setting up).

  1. It’s easier to get people to give than take! 4/10 people offered me items for others to borrow – even though I didn’t ask! This confused the economist in me, but rang true with many of the crowd-based projects I’ve been involved in before. I’m planning to experiment with this phenomenon further, and will report back!
  2. “It’s not free if I can’t keep it” – I love this piece of feedback (the highest rated comment from my forum posting) as it demonstrates the predominant view of ownership that the sharing economy is challenging – and highlights that there is a long way to go!
I like to think of consumer behavior and the sharing economy as a ‘turning tide’ – a) it seems to be changing direction (slowly), and b) is changing under our feet while we test, which makes experimentation here all the more fascinating!
If you’re interested in collaborating on a future experiment (or want to hear about my next ones), add me on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Someone broke the drone (and we are pretty psyched about it)

We started an experiment a few months back, offering to lend out anything that costs less than $500 for up to two weeks, no matter what. Meaning that if a neighbor (or someone in our community) does not offer to lend it, we will buy it for you on Amazon and ship it to you - IF YOU GET 25 people to comment on a Facebook post. Sure the experiment says that the comments should be vouches that you will return it, but we all know the real reason we are doing it:)

Anyway- one of the items we lent out was a drone. The first person posted footage that he took on youtube. That was pretty awesome because it showed us he got it, showed us he was using it, etc. The second person got sick and couldn't use it but someone else in their office borrowed it (with 25 fresh likes). She couldn't make it fly. My friend in KC borrowed it next and he couldn't make it fly (and he's a nerd). He didn't have the right camera though, so I didn't think it was broken. But 3 times a charm, and now I am pretty sure, as My Cousin Vinny says, that "The fucken thing is broken".

Here's why that is kind of awesome.

  1. We learned a shitload. We learned that p2p shipping is super easy. We learned that people are more likely than we realized to share our site with colleagues than friends. And of course we realized that highly technical items require more than just good intentions. 
  2. We proved things we already knew like the risk of outright theft, for items low in relative value - especially when asked for on FB is close to zero and not nearly the PRIMARY risk. 
  3. The best thing about it though.. is that we are having "better problems"  a term taken from Zingermans 12 Natural Laws of Business. We are still not scaling as fast as I would like - but our old problems were proving demand in the first place. We could not GIVE SHIT AWAY FOR FREE if we tried, and we tried hard. We are slowly starting to see real demand, a real need for the service we are providing. We are also starting to fulfill that demand well. Maybe not with hand held flying robots controlled by iPhones... but hey, we aimed high:) maybe a little too high...
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BORROW FREE FOR UP TO TWO WEEKS? REQUEST IT HERE (even the drone - but that now comes with a disclaimer... the last person could not get it to fly - some assembly required)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

If you need to borrow a crankshaft balancer puller, all you have to do is ask!

Hi I'm going to need a crankshaft balancer puller, for replacing a Crankshaft Position Sensor, this week. Thanks.
LikeLike · 
  • Seen by 6
  • Adam Berk If none of your neighbors has one, you can go to and request it - there, all requests are guaranteed in stock if you get 25 comments on your request. We have a fund and as soon as you have 25 comments and we have your address, we go on amazon and ship it to you (we have prime so it usually takes 2 days)
    ANYTHING YOU ASK FOR, WORTH UNDER $500 is available to you for free if you return it in less than two weeks and have 10-25 ppl vouch for you.
    Internet/Software: 873 like this

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

We finally did it! We annoyed 2 people!

For years and years and years everyone LOVED neighborrow. They loved the idea. They loved the idea of the idea. The never really used it the way we wanted them too. I have been vocal of the fact that I too still believe in the idea of the idea but that a supply side "platform for a pooled inventory of stuff" is not the solution and "waste" in general is a pity but it is not necessarily a "problem".

I am positive that generating an inventory of stuff, even a community for that matter, is not our biggest challenge. Getting people to ask for stuff, and believe that they will receive it is the challenge.

One solution outcome experiment I am running now has to do with replacing a security deposit with "Facebook vouching". It is not binding by the person vouching for you... but it is an interesting social experiment none the less.

While the face of the experiment is to make sure that the borrower returns the free item in two weeks or less, I am actually testing a few more important variables than if vouching will actually lead to better return rates (which, contrary to what they wrote in DataFox) are flawless, we have never had an issue.

  1. I believe that vouching will actually lead to more initial conversions - I think that by asking users to "invest" something into the free item, they will be both more likely to believe it is real, and feel less guilty about asking.
  2. I also believe that there is some freebie virality built in here... and while I hate to call it a growth hack, it will be nice if 1/25 people vouching actually become new borrowers themselves....
We will let you know how the experiment goes... In the mean time, I am sorry to the folks who think the old deposit system is good enough. We think it can be better. Better for them and better for us as a company. We hate to be polarizing just for the sake of being polarizing... but after years and years of everyone saying how awesome we are and not using it - I am confident that we may be on to something. 

    • AndRE-dacted-w  Away I go.
      Like · Reply · 12 mins
    • Jennifer Phelan Saved by Leslie-ann!
      Like · Reply · 1 · 21 mins
    • since you have some carry over from the other thread - and since we are normally doing 25 for the drone... 14 more and it is yours! including Amanda Cohen - tell us more than "vouch" tell us why you know she is going to return it within the 2 weeks and without breaking it - she pays no deposit at all and you are not financially responsible if something does happen... we just want to see if this works
      Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
    • Leslie-Ann Kirijian Btw I leant Jenn my car to drive to newfoundland and back to Toronto. She returned the car. On time and in the same cognition she found it.
      Unlike · Reply · 2 · 32 mins
    • Leslie-Ann Kirijian Jennifer is the most responsible person I know. She has NEVER been late. EVER. She also never made an excuse. She is her word. She worked for me all through college and is still one my favourite people on this earth. You can't find a better person. VOUCH!!!!
      Unlike · Reply · 2 · 34 mins
    • 4 down 11 to go:)
      Like · Reply · 18 mins
    • Andy Mahase I agree with Andrew. A security deposit and ID should be sufficient. As for Jennifer Phelan, I can trust her with my unsigned winning lottery ticket and know it will be safe until I'm ready to cash it in.
      Like · Reply · 47 mins
      • you guys are funny... I should be able to stay at the Ritz every night for $1 - but the fine folks at that company have a policy. We have a policy - this is it:) No one is forcing her to get a drone for free and no one is forcing you to participate in our "misguided" crowdfunded insurance experiment. @jennifer - if you prefer to give us $1,000 for the rental and deposit / happy to listen to the crowd, just have a 3rd friend tell us how stupid our idea is...
      • Jennifer Phelan Andy you are also not helping!! 
    • Tammy Phelan vouch
      Like · Reply · 1 hr
    • Amanda Cohen vouch!