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Phil Argent: Hello, James. It’s Tuesday.

James Thorn: Tuesday.

Phil Argent: And it’s episode six of ‘Let’s build this tech start-up’. What we’re going to talk about today, for approximately 9 minutes and 50 seconds, is-

James Thorn: Clock is ticking.

Phil Argent: The clock is ticking. What we’re going to talk about is it’s going to be within the context of building the business.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: We’re talking about, basically, how we’re building, as opposed to how we’re testing or how we’re measuring. This is all about how we’re building the business. The question is we’re having to… Obviously, we don’t have an infinite amount of resources to build this, so we’re having to work out what features – this is particularly when we talk about building the platform, which is ‘TenancyStream.app’ – is that we’re having to work out what features we want to build and which features we’re not going to build.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Okay, so, from your perspective, based on what you’re learning and what we’re sharing, is how are we, currently, how are we making the decisions around building the features? What do we seem to be doing that seems to be working?

James Thorn: It’s a real interesting one to think about. Obviously now, with the volume of users we’ve got, we’ve got some great data. Even today we got some brilliant messages on the platform from our users, giving us a bit of feedback and giving us some pointers. That’s all I’ve had this week, really, from talking to our existing users, pointing in the direction of what features would work best for them. 

But I also think it’s a fine line of we could just get carried away, building every single little feature that one of our users suggests. That would be great. We would have – we would end up with – this huge, over-glorified, overbuilt platform, but at the same time you’ve still got to keep the core principles of what our goals are: to improve communication, really, to make communication better, to make it more efficient.  

We’ve still got to really have those goals in the back of our mind when we’re making the decision: if we build this feature, will it still take us to the end goal of where we want the platform to be? It’s a fine balance of, yes, we need to build our features to make it better for the users. At the same time, those features have got to take us to the ultimate goal of what we’re building.

Phil Argent: Okay, so I’ve got this statement in my head. It’s, like, stamped in my head at the moment, (Laughter) is that we are – and the way I examine the data, and the semantics around the data and the feedback we’re getting from users is that obviously we are – building something that our users are using.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: We want-

James Thorn: They’re using it a lot, as well.

Phil Argent: We want them to use it more.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: But what we’re trying to do at the same time is we’re trying to invent something no-one has seen before.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: It has become quite evident to me, particularly over the last couple of days, is that we’re having to now imagine – imagine – the business we’re building, because no-one has built what we’ve built, before.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: There seems to be a slight conflict in this business-building phase at the moment, is that we started off with a bit of a plan, we got traction.

James Thorn: It’s a balancing act, isn’t it?

Phil Argent: Yes. We got traction on the platform.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Then got, obviously, quite a high volume of messages, quite a high volume of users on the platform. Then what we’ve got now is this [almost 0:04:09]-

James Thorn: Pendulum.

Phil Argent: Metronome. Yes, this pendulum of, basically, influence and opportunity.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: I think that, basically, how we’re basically developing the platform at the moment is largely based on one piece is a very, very, very small idea, a very simple idea which we won’t share, because it’s a bit of a secret as to the idea. But let’s just say, “If you look very closely at Tenancy Stream, you can see what it is,” that Tenancy Stream is a messaging platform for the property industry. That’s the very simple idea.  

To get people to – obviously everyone, be it managing agents, landlords, contractors and tenants – to get them all to use the platform is that all of the functions on that platform have to support everyone at the moment.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: But, in itself, that is creating a volume of choices: which feature do we built, and how do we build it?

James Thorn: You can see why it’s so easy for tech start-ups, or anyone in this position, to get so carried away with building out features, and tools, and add-ons which aren’t necessarily needed in the actual grand scheme of things and won’t get you to the goal. You’ll end up with a… You’re trying to cater for everybody. 

Phil Argent: Yes, you end up catering- 

James Thorn: But [Crosstalk 0:05:39] where you want to be.

Phil Argent: You end up catering-

James Thorn: [Crosstalk].

Phil Argent: You end up catering for no-one because you end up catering for everyone.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: One of the things I have done today – and it feels like I’m… (Laughter) Today, it feels like I’m circling a plughole, is that up until earlier today I was really build… I was listening to semantic feedback from users.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Then I basically decided that I’d spend some time looking at the analytics from the dot app – so, that’s ‘TenancyStream.app’ and ‘TenancyStream.com’ – and look at, basically, how the platforms were running. Then I started to gauge some data as to how things were working.  

The interesting thing is that when I’m trying to, basically, steer the roadmap for the features is that I feel that I have to do some experiments at the moment. Those experiments are very, very small – very, very small.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: When we talk about features, one of the things that I think we’ve done in the last, say, five days is that we haven’t actually developed any features as such, but what we’ve done is we’ve optimised how we think people use the features. To some extent-

James Thorn: Also making minor tweaks, refining. A great example of that is the document storage element. You know, [ ___ 0:07:03] feedback. They wanted a solution that was quicker to upload their documents.

Phil Argent: We basically chucked in- 

James Thorn: [Crosstalk]-

Phil Argent: We chucked in drag-and-drop, so we’ve got that in. Okay.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: So, basically, there’s a conflict in terms of how we go about what we’re doing. That’s what I feel we have, is that the ‘TenancyStream.app’ is, technically, developing in one fashion, and then ‘TenancyStream.com’, which is the public perception, the message, is a little bit more stable at the moment. There are some very, very small refinements that we put onto that platform in terms of copy, really. It’s just trying to get the positioning of the product correct for the audience.

Okay, so now there’s another question. We’ve only got a few minutes. The other question is, basically, at this moment I’ve got a thought that, basically, we are currently building a community, so we’ve got managing agents, landlords, contracts and tenants on the platform already, right? We have a community.  

In your experience – and it’s not… Let’s just say, “In terms of that context,” because we are not a community platform, but what responsibilities do you think we have? Open question, not prepared answer.

James Thorn: [For this 0:08:19] [Crosstalk].

Phil Argent: What responsibilities do we have? 

James Thorn: [We’ve got]-

Phil Argent: [Do we have]-?

James Thorn: With any sort of community and responsibilities, giving everyone the opportunity to manage their property in the best way, to be able to, wherever they live, to get the best experience [and event 0:08:41].  

I think our responsibility, because we’ve got so many different types of users on the platform, is really making the best experience for each user, without, like I say, getting carried away of something, going down one avenue for only one user, or developing features just for one user. It’s going to jeopardise the other side of the pendulum. 

If we make it all tenant focused, are we going to eliminate the agent? Or are we going to flip it round all on the agent side, very focused on the agent side and we’re going to not give the best experience to the tenant? That is what I see our responsibilities being, and that goes back to the development side, our goals, and the data we’re receiving.

Phil Argent: Okay. That’s 9 minutes 30. What we’re going to do is we’re going to have a little pause there because that’s going to be the end of the video for those on LinkedIn. But if you want to carry on the chat, if you want to hear what we’re going to talk about in a bit more detail in terms of we’re going to be talking about – a little bit about – the AI that we’re going to be looking to develop on the platform, watch the video on YouTube. Okay, three, two, one. We’ve probably lost everyone on LinkedIn, but, if you’ve come from LinkedIn, you’ve made it this far.

James Thorn: You’ve made it.

Phil Argent: Okay, so the next [Crosstalk 0:10:01]

James Thorn: You’ve got to subscribe somewhere. ___ point in one direction to the ‘scribe’ button.

Phil Argent: Yes. Okay, so, basically, we’re just going to talk for a couple of minutes, [is the]-

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Obviously, I’ve started to do some research on AI in the platform. This is largely going to be because our investor has asked, or suggested, or questioned, basically, what responsibility we have. What responsibility we have.  

All I want you to try and answer, and answer it from your perspective – just yours, not the company – as a user on the platform, should Tenancy Stream have a responsibility for you, as a person, what happens?

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: How people talk to you, how people communicate to you. Should we influence that, or should we not influence that? Consider that in a year’s time, if we’ve got 100,000 users on the platform, there’s a high probability that there will be millions upon billions of messages. We will have a responsibility, so I’m just curious to get your view on how big that responsibility should be.

James Thorn: I’d say there are certain aspects that we can do with the responsibility side of things. I do think with, obviously, that sort of volume and the ecosystem, the community or the environment that we want to make, we want to make it a friendly place, a not stuffy old email system. We want to make it an interactive, nice, easy-going place where you can ask questions, report issues, and you feel that you’re open to do that.  

But also it’s interesting because if you look at, for example, the Airbnb concept and the Airbnb, everyone has got a profile. Also, you then go into the stage of all the users on there – the hosts, they call it – they’ve all got individual ratings. One of the ratings is response rates, whereby, if a tenant or if a guest asks you a question, whether it’s just an enquiry or question [that the hosts just 0:12:33] respond within in a certain time, I’ve been… I’m a host. I get the messages saying, ‘You have to respond in a certain time.’ 

I think there are certain bits that could be… I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do. I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do, but there are certain triggers that will encourage positive behaviour. Whether that’s for the tenant to be more proactive if they spot an issue in the property, they report it straightaway so stop it getting worse, or, if they’re going to give notice, they do it in such a way whereby they allow access to do viewings or they allow access for inspections. 

Or from the agent side, if there’s something that we can do to make the agent’s behaviour or positive – or even the contractor, the way that the contractor goes in, fixes a broken tap within a timely manner and provides an excellent service – are there elements that we can put in this? We don’t know yet. We don’t know.

Phil Argent: Right, okay, [so we 0:13:35]-

James Thorn: [So, actually encourages] positive behaviour.

Phil Argent: Yes, okay. So, in conclusion, basically, we do have a growing understanding at this stage that we will have a sense of responsibility that the right thing gets done. How we engineer that into the platform is largely a question of the unknown question. Or the question that hasn’t been confirmed to be answered is that when we monetise the platform, which will happen in the near future – and we’re looking at doing that, or starting to consider that, in Q3, Q4 – who pays for the platform is yet to be determined.  

But what we’re saying is that there are going to be some algorithms running in the background that are going to help us to qualify the success of the platform. There’s going to be some AI running in the background to give us some idea of the quality of the experience on the platform. To some extent, we’re going to have to have a responsibility for that. 

Obviously, a secure messaging environment is very relevant to what we’ve learnt with WhatsApp, is that we know that WhatsApp is favoured for a secure environment. We know that privacy within Facebook [Message 0:14:55] with Facebook has been corroded massively over the last five or six years.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Obviously, as a messaging platform, the great thing is we can see the anecdotal mistakes that these big organisations have made that have left them vulnerable. So, in effect, what we’re considering is that the AI that we’re putting into the platform is largely unknown. The data science behind the platform is largely unknown, but they are going to be rolling in.

James Thorn: [Spread over time with 0:15:25] the data.

Phil Argent: They are going to be rolling in once we start to get volume.

James Thorn: Linking into our goals for the platform.

Phil Argent: Yes.

James Thorn: We’ll work it from there, make the decision accordingly.

Phil Argent: Okay. Alright, James, okay, so look, that’s 15 minutes. I think if people have made it all this way, hopefully we’ve shared a couple of useful insights into what we’re puzzling over.

James Thorn: Definitely. (Laughter)

Phil Argent: The whole idea with this is really that we’re talking about building a tech business at this stage, as opposed to testing it or measuring it. This is all about building. James, okay, look, this, [mate 0:16:02], that’s a wrap. I’ll see you next time.

James Thorn: [Too], we’ve got a good video tomorrow, a very good video, with a special guest.

Phil Argent: Okay, special guest. Subscribe to the channel, okay. (Laughter)

James Thorn: Subscribe to the channel, put a ‘like’.

Phil Argent: Okay, James.

END AUDIO

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