Progress Update: September 2023

First off, huge props to all of the participants at our Ideathon at Casa do Impacto last weekend. What a crew!

September #BuildInPublic update is going to be a long one. This past month saw the most progress both in terms of feature dev on the platform as well as refinement of the in-person event format. First advancements to the platform:

The most notable feature deployment platform-wise was the launch of the public member directory:

We now have a searchable, filterable directory of members all coded by geo, role, skills, cause affinities, projects, holdings and event participation. This means if you’re proposing a project you can find people in the directory who have the skills you need to execute it. Even better, when you add tasks to your proposed projected coded with the Role, Skill, Language tags, members who have subscribed to hear about opportunities that need their skills will be notified of your requested deliverable. The vision of using these resource tags as the “rail spike” that connects the member pool to potential opportunities is finally coming together…

Other Features of Note

Events are now completely “wikipedia-fied” and anyone can propose one in his/her locale. Events will now start in “private” status and stay hidden until you’re able to hit a threshold of 5 approved signups. Once you have 5 people legitimately complete all onboarding steps for your event then it automatically goes public on the site. This is in keeping with the “open but meritocratic” value of making it so truly anyone can use the platform and it promotes the do’ers based on progress rather than trying to pick and anoint local admins in advance.

Event Organizers now have a simple way right within the event page to change attendees’ roles & statuses, check them in, designate other admins for the event, send one-off emails to attendees. This is a cornerstone piece that paves the way to let other people run events using the Web UI. Until now I’ve been cheating and doing all these activities by interacting directly with the db but this admin feature now makes it so anyone can run an event entirely via the web interface, which is also nice because it means you do everything via your phone now as well.

Prospective attendees can now self-cancel their RSVP if something changes and they can no longer make it. This should prevent the issue we had at a previous event where we ran a waitlist and had to turn people away but then had no-shows at the event itself.

Interestingly the mere existence of this ^^ feature contributed to our first flawless no-show attendance record. We had 35/35 people show up which is unheard of in the 11 events I’ve done thus far. Some of that was due to the pre-event communication and onboarding process but I believe making it easy to cancel has the effect of making you more likely to attend (the same as reducing the barriers to exit on your SaaS product).

I implemented an adoption process for the Project library for projects which have been abandoned due to inactivity from their teams. We’ll see if this maybe helps these projects find loving owners to take them forward:

Other random smaller features:

  • Made it more obvious when you’re logged-in as the project entity itself.
  • Event pages now show associated bounties as well as projects. For projects it dynamically pulls in the skills needed to execute them by aggregating all the resource tags from each requested deliverable.
  • I added a crowd-sourced photo album feature to the event pages so now anyone who was in attendance can upload photos. You can see photos from our event last Saturday here.
  • Made a more obvious way to show which account you’re logged-in as by using your avatar instead of “Dashboard.”
  • Made an CSV export feature for the event organizer to make an easy way to generate the attendee list at any time. We needed this for security at this one and it’s a good general tool to have because it also allows me to tag people in Mailchimp and easily do an email blast via that system.
  • Modified the event onboarding process so now users associate their Discord account to their Problemattic account so we have that linkage.
  • Squashed some bugs related to event editing and recording your pitch video via browser.

Tweaks to the event format

As always I took 6 pages of hand-written journaled notes compiled from personal observations and attendee feedback and put them in our Discord. There are too many takeaways to list here but some highlights:

This last event was far more unstructured and organic and had an altogether different vibe than the ones we’ve done at 42 Lisboa. Some of that was due to the projector not being powerful enough to be visible so we ditched it and kept all interactions low-tech. This meant less emphasis on creating pretty slides for the demo night and more focus on content of the pitch which I think worked well. I’m going to find a happy medium for future ones where we constrain groups to using no more than 3 slides with the option to demo their clickable prototype.

Judging worked a bit differently at this one. And first, shoutout to our wonderful judges panel affectionately nicknamed “Dolphin Tank” by Nicole because it was basically a friendly Shark Tank episode:

I decidedly invited SaaS founders from the local community instead of investors this time and we ditched the “valuation-based” approach where the winner was chosen based on market cap of their project from judges’ accepted offers in the trading system. We instead used deliberation-based consensus vote and the emphasis was on them asking constructive questions and trying to help the teams figure out the most viable path to do what they wanted to achieve with their project. This led to a way better vibe and outcome vs. past panels where it’s taken a more Shark Tank style competitive tone.

I also tried an experiment with audience-choice voting using the trading system. On initial check-in participants were issued a token they could send to their favorite project and whoever they thought was the most valuable team player for the day. This was a bit confusing for some but a great excuse to get people familiar with the trading system.


As always it’s purely a resource allocation challenge and choosing what to prioritize. I actually feel pretty good with progress on everything and feedback this time on the event was immensely positive. We have our next Buildathon on Saturday and the main push will be around getting a barebones MVP in-market for the winner from the event. They have a proposed app to address societal metabolic health decline so will be interesting to see what we can pull off in a day for them.

The last tweak I made (and this is brand new hot off the presses) is The Problemattic Workbook, an 11-page printable guide that teams can use at the event to work through the right questions and exercises to get to a validated prototype and compelling pitch/demo. While some attendees liked the loose organic nature of the day, multiple people asked if we could put some guardrails and structure to the day with group check-ins and milestones to hit by certain times. This is a first pass at a self-guided workbook that aligns with the framework I already use for the day.

Next Month’s Focus

The main push will be around cleaning up how task management and task bounties work for project owners and contributors.
I’m also looking at potentially making a way to front-load the team formation piece in advance of the event and have the system suggest teams based on skills & cause/problem affinities. People can still swap places but this would allow us to hit the ground running on the day of the Ideathon. And when we’re already so time-constrained this should win back two hours to allocate to the activities in the workbook.

Project Success
I’ll be working with Nourahealth and Burn Bright to help them get their MVP out the door and get some early traction. I’m also hoping to help Message Anywhere get their Bubble application ported over to a new platform and launched.

We have the Buildathon in less than a week from now. If you want to be a feedback volunteer we could definitely use your input. Ideally we need people who are either pre-diabetic or concerned about their metabolic health and people who have been through professional burnout. If you want to be a feedback volunteer for either of those projects please add yourself here (remote OK).

Pausing all podcast interviews until we get these projects launched. Of course I say that but I’m literally walking out the door in five minutes to attend Microconf Europe where there will be amazing founders in attendance so who knows, you may see some podcast interviews this next month after all.

Open Questions

The only major open question I have is where to best focus my energy on fundraising for the bounties. It’s clear we have something at this point and now a matter of identifying the customers for whom this is going to be a big deal. There’s a B2B play here going to companies like Microsoft and saying “we can help your employee engagement / job satisfaction / retention / etc.” That’s one angle. There’s also approaching municipalities who are looking for more effective ways to both engage their citizens and cheaper ways to get change implemented. We also have the philanthropic play going to private foundations, legacy giving programs, NGO’s with budgets, etc… I think the right answer is to rig up some landing pages and run some experiments on outreach to start figuring out which of these paths will yield fruit sooner than later.

Key Stats

I’m going to do this part a bit differently going forward. It’s just easier to post the analytics graph:

TVL all Bounties: $8256
Total Projects: 17
Total Users: 298

The technical roadmap as always can be found here.