Escape the City, founded in 2010, started as a community driven project with a mission to help over a million people quit jobs they are unhappy or unfulfilled in. Founders Rob and Dom created a platform to help people discover exclusive Escape The City career opportunities, be that exciting new jobs aligned with their values, working remotely for causes they care about, or setting up their own businesses. Escape the City accomplishes this through its 'Escape School' courses and by providing access to job boards.
After outgrowing an in-house developed solution, they needed a safe option. Escape the City knew that in order to attract investors, they needed to build a robust platform with experienced and mindful product experts.
“ We bet everything (90% of our cash) on hiring thoughtbot and working on improving the core tech of the product. It was a very risky decision, but our bet paid off. ”Dominic Jackman, CEO & co-founder, Escape the City
Escape the City had an old site based on PHP. In order to raise funding and accelerate the business growth, they urgently needed to address user experience and implement a higher quality technology platform that would increase user traction and signal healthy growth.
“thoughtbot challenged me on what we needed to build and scale back in terms of our ambition. We met to look at what was in scope, what was out of scope, and what were 'nice-to-haves. That was very reassuring.”Dominic Jackman, CEO & co-founder, Escape the City
Knowing the budget constraints and the growing pains Escape the City had with the previous in-house prototype, the thoughtbot team wanted to make sure we were mindful of their needs and support them in their startup journey.
We started with product design, moving on to build a solution, getting them into production as quickly as we could. Dominic stayed in close collaboration with the development team throughout the process.
“We spent seven weeks with thoughtbot: two-week sprints, one-week sprint, a break and then two one-week sprints. That worked really well, it was like being in a space shuttle with the afterburners on because everything needed to be ready in a short space of time and we worked really hard. If we had gone the developer freelance route again, it would’ve taken us probably six months to get to where we got to with thoughtbot. So it was a more expensive solution in the short term, but we got there much more quickly.”Dominic Jackman, CEO & co-founder, Escape the City
"We loved the way we worked together and how my thinking and methodology were challenged," recalls Dominic, "I was never open to it before. I worked closely with the team at thoughtbot who were actually developing the product, using agile methodology and design sprints. It was great how we broke down problems and solved them smoothly.
The biggest outcome for me personally was being up-skilled as a Project Manager and leaving the thoughtbot engagement with not only a powerful new platform, but also the skills to use while working with our own developers later - a long lasting solution.
We learned that having a robust platform with clean code was fundamental, because if you are building on a shaky foundation then everything is going to be shaky. With the strong foundation in place we were able to get to where we wanted to be much more quickly. It fast forwarded our progress. Instead of six months with hired developers, we got to achieve it in 7 weeks with thoughtbot. It also enabled us to get more traction and these were signals to get funding. We started making money faster. User experience of the product was much better than our initial product as it was much more advanced."