CASE STUDY - 2020

Synaptic mobile

Synaptic: Synaptic is an alternative data platform that helps financial firms and investors get actionable insights.

About the project: Screening & evaluating companies is a core user activity on Synaptic, amounting to 90% of usage on dekstop – however, it was difficult to extract meaningful insights from the data presented in mobile app. I led the redesign to simplify compage profile so it was intuitive to browse.

ROLE

End to end design, Requirements, User research, Prototyping, Testing

TEAM

Dilpreet Singh - Engineer

Shashank Jain - Engineer

BACKGROUND

Venture capital investment funnel

A venture capitalist(VC) plays many roles—investor, business owner, board member, recruiter, consultant, mentor, and fundraiser, to name just a few. In contrast to a common perception, an experienced VC will typically spend less than half his/her time in activities related to new deal flow and potential new investments. To sort through investment opportunities, VCs use a multi-stage selection process, known as the deal funnel.

Investment funnel of a VC firm – Synaptic is used at screening & due diligence stage

At each subsequent stage a substantial number of opportunities are eliminated. On an average a firm invests in less than 1% of ~2000 companies they review in a year.

Due to the large number of potential investments, and the small number that will eventually be funded, the initial screening is not done in depth, but rather is intended to identify those companies which warrant more detailed examination. The objective is to assess the risks associated with the proposal, turn down the “misfits” quickly, and focus on the most promising investment opportunities.

SYNAPTIC POSITIONING

Each VC has their own set of criteria on which they evaluate potential opportunnities. Early stage VC’s may focus more on the founding team while late stage VC may give more weightage to user penetration of a product in a given market. The core hypothesis of a firm pinballs between product, market & team.

By aggregating data from multiple sources, Synaptic provides a unified interface that enables VC’s to get a complete picture of a company

Research

An extensive study of usage data showed me that the mobile app was lagging behind desktop in almost every aspect. Users were abandoning workflows midway. Through user interviews & surveys, it became clear that there were massive pain points in mobile.

1. Company profile took ~5s to load

2. Missing data for many companies

3. Poor architecture made it hard to make sense of data

4. No notifications when a data source is updated

5. No ability to compare competitors

Opportunity

Not only was this project important because it was one of the top requests we continued to hear from customers, but it also provided tremendous value to the business. We saw mobile app as a way to increase user engagement, keep users in Synaptic, and to satisfy market demand.

Rather than opening multiple tabs on Similarweb, Appannie, Linkedin & Second measure, users trusted Synaptic to provide all the data for a company. The opportunity for Synaptic was specific: we could be an all in one tool to screen companies. And we saw mobile as leading the way, relegating due diligence to desktop. We prioritized a few key features that would be most valuable and feasible.

Show all entities

We only showed data for primary entities on mobile which led to a perception that the app was incomplete. For ex: We only showed metrics for Uber ride app even though Uber has multiple apps on App store(Uber driver & Uber lite)

Exhaustive data sources

Several key metrics such as User retention, App ranking, Glassdoor ratings & Product reviews were missing from mobile.

Compare competitors

If you’re evaluating Uber, there’s a good chance that you would want to compare it with Lyft in US and Ola in India. This was not possible on mobile.

Data analysis

Each chart opened on a new page which made it difficult to compare trends. You cannot plot month-over-month graph on mobile.

Better architecture

Previsouly, all of the metrics for a company were laid out in a flat heirarchy – a single scrollable view. This made it difficult to navigate to a specific data source. I added a Floating button so that users can easily switch to an entity they’re interested in evaluating.

Another reason for introducing the FAB was to decouple Company overview and Data source detail. While sceening a company, a VC first takes a cursory glance of key metrics such as Funding history, Investors, Industry, Founders background etc. before diving deep into a data source. Decoupling the overview & detail section enabled us to cater to that workflow.

Before: All entities were stacked vertically. This made it hard to build a mental map of data for a company

After: The navigation is abstracted away into the floating action button making it easy to find an entity

Intuitive company overview

Overview acts as a broad summary of a company. Knowing that the company was founded a year ago and has only 10 employees gives you better context while evaluating website visits. I re-arranged the sections and surfaced relevant metrics on overview.

1. About the company, Geography & Sector

Description, geography and sector hints you about the market the company is operating in

2.Total funding & previous investors

Most of the VC’s invest at a particular stage – Early, Growth, Late or Public

3. Employees & culture

The above info combined with Employee count gives you a hint about of the scale a company is operating at. Glassdoor is used as a proxy of a company’s culture

4. Performance metrics

Primary metrics for each entity is surfaced. Ex: Downloads & Active users for Mobile, Total visits for Websites and Observed sales for Credit card

Simplifying analysis

All metrics for a company were correlated. An increase in Sales can be attributed to expanding Customer base or it can be due to a growth in Spending per customer. With the redesign, our primary goal was to highlight these web of connections and quickly establish the big picture for a data source.

Before: It’s difficult to compare metrics in tiles view

After: In tabular view, you can easily see the connections. The accent colors further provides a macro view of performance

The chart opens up in the same view. This allows you to evaluate a metric without losing context. You can also open multiple charts at once and compare trends across different metrics.

YoY growth

I added pills for MoM & YoY alongside the absolute values. YoY chart helps you establish the rate of growth for a metric. A flat line for YoY would indicate a constant growth Year over Year while an upward or download slope signals accelerating/decelearing growth. This is useful for VC’s evaluating Early stage & late stage companies.

Faster loading

Changing the architecture also allowed us to bring down the loading time of company profile from ~7s to less then ~1.5s. While previously, all the data had to be loaded before anything rendered on the screen, now we divides up the calls into sections and rendered them sequentially.

I added progressive loading to the company profile. Company meta(description, sector, funding) acts an anchor that holds users attention and while they are reading the content, the rest of the pge loads, giving an impressions of faster loading time.

Learnings

This was a really exciting and challenging project for me to work on as it provides real value, involved a ton of research, and detailed interaction work. I learned some important takeaways from this project related to product and business processes.

Choosing what not to do is more important

There were many great use cases that we could have tackled with rich features. However, there was a cost associated with each and I had to determine which ones provided value for Synaptic.

Defining an MVP

I learned how to define a true MVP, something that is shippable and let’s you test your hypothesis with minimum feature set

Fight for good UX

I had to work under very strict technical constraints, but still fight for what I believe is essential to having a good user experience.