Building a homecare app, and business model, from across the globe
How do you build the tech backbone of a business while working in opposite time zones? That was the challenge Jeremy Martin brought to Table XI. The businessman, based in Singapore, wanted to make a dynamic app that would power the homecare network he was launching in his native Australia.
With Australia deregulating homecare, Jeremy had an opportunity to build an alternative to a largely antiquated system — introducing technology where there were previously only papers. He just needed a technical partner to help him do it. Through the recommendation of another happy and remote client, he came to Table XI for help transforming an industry untouched by tech.
Together, with a lot of research and remote collaboration, we were able to build an app that powers Tend, Jeremy’s new homecare business. By creating a digital space for caregivers, clients and families to coordinate and communicate, we’re able to make homecare more transparent and flexible than ever before.
Earning the trust of a (very) remote client
With Jeremy based in Singapore, we knew we’d have a short window to align on Tend’s vision. Before that, though, we had to make sure he knew what he was getting into. Jeremy was an accomplished businessman, but had little experience in tech or homecare. We started off with a series of phone calls to determine what he wanted to accomplish, and to help him understand what it would take to get there. After seeing that he was serious and driven, we decided started gearing up for an Inception to kick off the project.
“A lot of people were too keen to start without knowing why I was doing it. It reassured me that Table XI started with questions.”
—Jeremy Martin, founder of Tend
Jeremy came to Chicago for a week, and we set right to work building on the trust we’d established remotely. To make the most of his time, we jumped into the Inception process to flesh out the goals of the project and find the best way to accomplish them. One of our lead developers, John Gore, led the process with a healthy dose of skepticism, pushing back on Tend from all sides to make sure the idea was on solid ground.
The No. 1 goal was to walk out of the Inception with a clear picture of what the project would be. But we also knew with Jeremy so far away, it was our shot to build a relationship we could rely on throughout the process. We showed him exactly what Table XI had to offer, so he understood what we were capable of and how we worked. Then we made a plan to maintain that trust with bi-weekly conference calls. Despite the time difference — our mornings were Jeremy’s evenings — we kept to this routine and it helped us all stay on track. We also set Jeremy up with beta builds of the app, so he could see and test new features as they were built. At the end of the week, Jeremy was confident that we were the right partner for him and capable of creating the technology he needed.
We also used the Inception to build a shared understanding of how important user research would be. Neither Table XI nor Tend had deep experience in homecare. To build an app that would solve problems in the industry, we had to talk to enough potential users to know what those problems were. While Jeremy was eager to get going, we knew we had to make sure we were taking off in the right direction.
Showing the value of user research — and adapting the product because of it
When Jeremy came to us, he envisioned Tend as an Uber for in-home care. As we began talking to practitioners, patients and families, however, we realized that wasn’t quite what they wanted. They wanted to keep the same caregiver over time — and build a deeper relationship with that person through better communication. Scheduling wasn’t the chief concern we thought. It was transparency.
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Australia’s current homecare industry was almost entirely paper-based. Transforming that alone — giving users a robust, digital note-taking functionality and a social feed-style system for updates — would make information readily available and easily shareable.
This shift in our understanding was enough to show Jeremy and his team how powerful user research could be. Without it, we would have built a product with limited use — and therefore limited adoption. We continued to interview users throughout the project, using their insights to shape the final product. We also taught Jeremy how to execute future user testing on his own. The goal was to make us equal stakeholders. As partners, we wanted to absorb Tend’s mission, and teach Tend how to get value out of our processes even when we’re not around to run them.
“It was clear that they were thinking about the end product. I’ve never been involved in an app before, and that was a good education for me.”
—Jeremy Martin, founder of Tend
Saving money by using React Native’s cross-platform capabilities
One of the biggest challenges was scale. Jeremy hoped to launch Tend simultaneously on both iOS and Android, and in multiple countries (more on that later). He wasn’t sure how best to accomplish that, but he knew it needed to happen. We were able to fill in the technical knowledge, looking at the requirements and picking React Native as our framework.
We’ve used React Native extensively, and this was a chance for us to combine all that we’d learned to launch iOS and Android apps from one React Native codebase at the same time. To make sure each app worked correctly in its native environment, we ran tests in both systems and made tweaks to account for any differences. The result was two native apps for a fraction of the price — and the future cost savings that come from having only one codebase to maintain.
Working alongside Tend to build its business from the ground up
When Jeremy first approached us, he had a rough sketch of what Tend could be, but there wasn’t a fully formed business plan just yet. With technology right at the heart of the new company, our role as a tech partner didn’t end with building an app. It included helping Jeremy develop an outline of Tend’s goals and growth strategy. We worked closely with Jeremy to make sure the business would be just as much of a success as the tech — even bringing in our agency partners at One Design to help develop Tend’s branding.
Our advice touched every part of the business, including the release schedule. As we mentioned above, Jeremy’s original goal was to launch Tend in four countries simultaneously. We convinced Jeremy to put his focus on Australia. With deregulation, Jeremy was able to launch Tend as a government care provider, giving Tend the ability to serve clients who receive subsidies — a large demographic in the Australian model. All that user data can help us refine the product in real time, while we perform additional user research to understand how the market differs country to country. That phased approach will give Jeremy a stronger product with each country he adds, and a steady revenue base to support it.
The trust we established at the start of the project gave us the ability to both push the project forward organically and pivot as needed, because Jeremy knew everything we were doing was in service to building the best possible product. Now that Tend is entering the marketplace, our work is continuing. We’ll be collecting feedback and using it to make the next iteration even more of a leap forward for homecare.
“I really got the feeling they weren’t trying to make money. They were trying to make a good product, a product they could be proud of.”
—Jeremy Martin, founder of Tend