The Tech Creationist Canvas explained
The Tech Creationist Canvas is a one page canvas with specific sections asking you to answer various aspects of the tech venture you are building or thinking of building. The top area focusses on the general aspects, divided in a left “technology” side and the right “deployment” side. On the bottom you find the structural questions divided into the build on the left and the sustain on the right. All this surrounds the heart of the canvas: the purpose.
Each box should be filled in with the main aspects to take into consideration – order by importance. Let’s look at each box individually and how they help you.
Problem and Solution
State the two or three main problems you want to solve. Then state the solution(s) you are thinking of. Keep both short and simple, we will get back to them later.
Also think about the alternatives: how are people scratching that itch at the moment? Write those down at the bottom of the Problems section. These can even be offline or very cumbersome ways. The odds are though, if you can’t find any way that people work around the problems at the moment, it isn’t much of a problem in the first place.
Here you should think of the benefactors of the technology in question: Who has this problem, for whom is this a really big issue? Think outside of the general scope, think about people and organisation for whom such a technology has the biggest impact. Those are the ones with the strongest need for it. In a second step think about the solution and who else might benefit from that. There might be third parties that aren’t primary benefactors of the technology, but through its impact could become interested in helping it grow.
These are the people you should and want to build the technology for – UI and UX-Wise. Always keep them in mind as the users or supporters of your technology. The technology is for them. It doesn’t matter if you build the best technology in the world, if they can’t afford it or use it (because there is no electricity or internet in your target region), the technology is useless.
Among those Benefactors think about the key partners. Those who have already sponsored or supported these kind of project or projects for your key benefactors in the past or said they want to. Also think about those organisations and individuals who might haven’t done so but you have a close or strong relationship with so that they might if you ask them. Write them down as the “key partners” because they will help you solve the question of “channels”.
The Benefactors you’ve specified, how will they learn about and get access to your solution for their problem. Is that through public advertising, distribution networks or maybe non-profits on the ground? Think closely about this question as it has an impact on how to build the technology, too. If you will have to distribute CDs then a continuous development system simply won’t work in your favour.
Word of advise: Just “putting it out there” doesn’t work. You need to spread the word and make it accessible. Even in the world of app markets people don’t just stumble over a great solution and start using it. There is just too much noise.
All this models around the question of what you want to change in the world. What’s the higher goal, the dent in the universe, you want the technology to make. Write this down here. It might be a little vague in the beginning but through a few development cycles and iterations it will become more and more clear for whom you are building it and what the impact is you want to make. Just make sure to clarify it little more every time.
When thinking about the purpose you want to achieve, can you think of any hard evidence that tells you whether you are making the impact you want to make? Write them down as your Impact Metrics. For each think about the benefactors and make those metrics as concrete as possible. Instead of “Number of active users” think of “Number of active users without access to clean water”. Build these metrics into your application to make sure you aren’t driven off path by opportunities on the way.
When experimenting and building a new technology there are upfront costs. Very often this is time spend building things and as we techies like building things we don’t consider it very costly. It is still important to think about that and write it down to not be surprised by hosting or other administrative costs and also to guide ourselves in how “expensive” it might become. If your “covered through” requires personal time, take a close look and think whether you are able and want to commit the required amount of time to it.
I also find it very helpful to put up some form of ETA for the initial build, let it be an exact date or a time frame it should take. Of course this is rather vague number as all estimates fail, but it reminds you – especially if you get drawn into a “just this other feature”-loop – that you wanted to launch and it might simply already be there. Then just launch.
Once an initial build is finished (or close to finished), we always raise the question of how to grow and sustain it. This question comes way too late. Being used to very fast feedback loops, too much technology is abandoned because the initial launch didn’t yield the immediate positive feedback the founders hoped for. Think early about how the technology will be grown and sustained. Think early about how to deploy the software to the benefactors and which key partners to talk to already. Even if it isn’t ready yet, a prototype is often enough to get a NGO going on their internal processes to help you out. Which in turn will drive you in really getting it done and deployed.
Executing takes longer than building and you want to get any help you can get for that. Looking and starting on that early on will increase the chances to make your impact by far. In this section you constantly update what you think the costs of growing (in both time and money) and sustaining the project are and how you think of covering those. This includes any marketing or education costs, everything that is necessary to deploy the technology to gain the desired impact.
- Introducing the Tech Creationist Canvas
- The Principles of The Tech Creationist Canvas
- The Tech Creationist Canvas editor user manual
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