Waste is a problem. Plastic ends up in the ocean. Landfills leak methane and other greenhouse gasses (GHGs). Making products for a single use means you need lots of them but production uses energy and emits GHGs.
Ideally, businesses would buy used goods instead of new. But right now that’s difficult because of the product quantity, consistency and cleanliness needed. For example, let’s say a vineyard needs 10,000 bottles. That’s hard to get from a recycler because they don’t have an incentive to find, clean, and sort bottles by type.
Iterant is a wholesale marketplace that aims to incentivize businesses to buy and sell secondhand goods like packaging, electronics, and other industrial products. The core hypothesis is around circular incentives—if original manufacturers got a portion of every resale, they’d hopefully invest in making more durable products for reuse.
Matt Senesky, former Tesla engineering leader and founder of Iterant, was in an incubator and trying to find his first customers. He needed a prototype to show them and to eventually raise money with.
His designer friend made really complex mockups.
Matt chose us over other studios because of our design and product management process. He wanted people who felt more like partners than fee for service providers. He knew we’d build something quickly that could scale, whereas other studios can only achieve speed by using one-size-fits-all “no-code” tools.
We made multiple proposals to figure out an approach that would let him get the proof he needed to fundraise while also leaving budget to iterate based on user feedback. Matt really liked this process because it made it very clear what he was going to get for his money.
To build something useful in 5 weeks, we agreed that the best path is to build a marketplace with a single incentive that Matt can pay out manually behind the scenes. We therefore wrote a scope for browsing, buying, checking out with credit card, and receiving your payout as a seller. We strategically cut back on areas that aren’t as important for pre-funded startups, like making a simple placeholder splash page instead of a full marketing website.
An important part of making prototypes is thinking through what happens if it works. That’s why we use tools that lots of developers know and love. While there are cool specialized tools that could be fun to use, if they’re not popular it will be harder to find developers to update it in the future. We also consider what will scale with user growth. We landed on React, GraphQL, Amplify and Vercel.
For payment processing, we implemented Stripe Connect. This enabled buyers to buy, sellers to get their pay out, and Iterant to collect their service fee and the incentive that goes to the original manufacturer.
It was important that we could work autonomously because Matt was in an incubator and out selling. We met once a week to show last week’s progress, review the sprint board, and plan the next week’s work.
This cadence built momentum. The product was continuously moving and we all got to see it live on the staging site. We don’t do a final “big reveal” because it hides progress from the client and minimizes how much input they can give. Instead, we make sure the product is updated weekly.
Matt and his advisors provided input each week. This allowed for slight scope adjustments as we went, instead of rigidly sticking to the proposal.
This also fostered transparency about the work we were doing. Matt could log in and see our progress at any point. He and his team could ask questions via Slack.
“In the last two weeks, I've sold out my entire inventory of black and white can carriers. Customer feedback is very positive!” —Matt Senesky, CEO @ Iterant
After the project, we interviewed potential users and synthesized insights which included some ideas for new features and iterations. We also helped Matt conduct his own user tests.
Matt hired us a few weeks later to make the platform work with Canadian dollars. This was cool because it validated the ease of updating our codebase. Good code is easy to add to; bad code is scary to change. Matt was also glad he could “turn us back on” to add new functionality. It enabled a bunch of Canadian companies to try the platform, since Canada has regulation to incentivize the circular economy that the US doesn’t have.
Since then, Matt narrowed down his first customer group to buyers and sellers of plastic beer bottle carriers. He’s lined up several buyers and sellers.
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