Tech Talk with the CTO
Although Tide Spin is backed by a huge company like Procter & Gamble, it’s a startup in every sense of the word: think of Tide Spin as the child who broke away from the family business to start their own endeavor.
Mark Caswell, CTO, talks about joining the Tide Spin team, the first phases of the app, and how they custom-built a platform flexible enough to grow with future advances.
Q. Why did you join Tide Spin?
I was at a point in my career where I was ready to stop traveling 100% of the time for work and was also looking to join a startup. When I was looking at startup postings, I wasn’t expecting to see one for a new P&G service being piloted in Chicago. The post described that Tide Spin was going to be run like a startup out of Chicago with almost complete autonomy from the rest of P&G.
In college, I did all three of my internships at Procter & Gamble in Products Research and I’m also a P&G kid, so I was quite familiar with the workings of the company. I had also been at Accenture for almost two years where I was doing project management. So between my P&G background, tech experience, and the startup nature, it was a perfect fit for me.
Q. You were housed in the startup incubator 1871 during Tide Spin’s early days--what were the advantages of working there?
Starting our first year in 1871 was a huge advantage. We got exposure to a community of over 500 other startups, education, and talks from top members of the startup community. Since P&G has never done anything like Tide Spin before, we really were starting this up from scratch. Sitting in an incubator with other young companies allowed us to learn a lot, and we also thrived off the energy and camaraderie.
Q. What were the driving factors behind customizing the software?
During our first year, we wanted to learn quickly. We were only starting to get our feet wet in the dry cleaning and on-demand space, and we wanted to get to market quickly to understand the customer experience.
At the start, we found an excellent partner through 1871 called Starchup. Starchup provides white-label software to dry cleaners to enable them to do pickup/delivery. Using their platform allowed us to go to market quickly and accelerate our understanding of the industry.
After about a year, our operational needs started to shift and our product vision deviated from what the Starchup platform offered. I came to the conclusion that we needed to develop our own custom solution so that we could have agility and tailor to the intricacies of our business model.
Q. What were your challenges during the design process? How long did it take?
On-demand laundry and dry cleaning is quite the complicated service. There are on-demand services that are point-to-point (pick up a passenger and bring them to a location), but we have the added challenge of being point-to-point-to-point (pick up clothes, bring it to a facility, bring it back). There are also the challenges of the actual cleaning of the clothes, specifically around tracking the progress, updating the customers, and the overall QA (quality assurance) of the cleaning.
All of these challenges factored into designing a solution that allows Tide Spin to operate efficiently and provide a smooth experience to our customers.
Building the MVP of our own platform took roughly four months. We’re constantly doing additional enhancements since launching it in December, 2016.
Q. Did you have an inspiration behind the app’s user experience?
I wanted to keep the experience as simple and clean as possible while also giving customers the right level of visibility into the process. I’m a big proponent of minimizing touches and designing experiences with customer success in mind. Part of the research process that fed into our design involved analyzing our customer support requests to see what the most common questions and confusion were with the service. Communicating the necessary information to answer these questions during the registration and first order while also not increasing touches was key to providing a solid experience while also maximizing conversion rate.
Q. What do you think is the coolest aspect of Tide Spin’s technology?
It’s hard to pick one thing. One of my favorite aspects is that we developed the app using React Native. React Native is Facebook’s framework for developing cross-platform apps using only Java. It drastically increases agility and decreases cost while still providing the user with a native-feeling experience. To my knowledge, we are the first group in P&G to use React Native. Really, if you look at everything we have built, I think we’re the first group in P&G that has built an agile system for a technology-driven service - and I think that’s pretty cool.
Q. So then what’s next?
We have quite a bit on our backlog and it’s always growing. We have a couple new features and operational enhancements coming soon. I can’t reveal just yet, but our customers will be delighted by them in the near future.