Sorted Circus Tested Their Hypothesis First to Guarantee Success

Sorted Circus Tested Their Hypothesis First to Guarantee Success


Vital Stats:

  • Company: Sorted Circus
  • Players: Doug Foulkes, Tracey Foulkes and Claire Burge
  • Est: 2013
  • Visit: 

When the founders of training company Get Organised started developing a productivity wellness app called Sorted Circus, they applied the lean start-up methodology. This was just as well, because when they asked their clients to test the product, the feedback was not great.

“The most remarkable part of our process is that we did not rush to market despite us wanting to and having clients raring to go,” says co-founder of Sorted Circus, Claire Burge.

Related: Xola Ndziba: Lean Start-up Approach to Limu

“We prototyped, and when we tested it on our clients, the feedback was that it was way too complex. We stripped it down completely and now offer a much better solution all round. It’s been so successful that the simpler product is also a global offering and we have partnered with a New York-based company to spread its reach even further.”

Today, Sorted Circus is a six-month productivity wellness programme that increases employee efficiency and impacts the bottom line.

Employees are presented with a series of time and task boosting challenges delivered via email. Without the need for complex passwords and logins, they are prompted to learn and then ‘check-in’ on how many times they implemented each challenge.

Everything is tracked on the company’s dashboard which displays a leaderboard showing off the top ten users as well as a comments section.

“Initially we had fancy dashboards and gamification built into the app, but then we were told that users were not ready for something so complex,” says co-founder Tracey Foulkes.

“That’s hard for an entrepreneur to hear, but it ultimately saved us a lot of money and time. We were about to spend another million on top of the couple of hundred thousand we had already committed to the project.”

Building on what works

Getting feedback from prospective clients was incredibly valuable because despite the criticisms, people loved the concept.

“As much as we had to admit there were problems with the product, we also discovered that our clients liked the idea — five of them were prepared to commit to 100 users each if we came back with a simpler version. So we went back to the drawing board and we also looked at what global wellness companies were offering.”

Taking the lean approach

‘The Lean Start-up’ idea is based on lean manufacturing – a management philosophy that can easily be applied to start-ups. A key part is creating a feedback loop: Build, measure, and learn. Critically, although you want to get through that loop as quickly as possible, it’s not just about failing fast, but about failing well. In the case of Sorted Circus, the founders listened to the feedback, took in the negatives and the positives, and went back to the drawing board.

“The message is test, test, test, test before investing huge amounts,” says Foulkes.

Related: What is The Lean Start-Up Movement?

Test your product

There’s a big difference between thinking you have a great new idea and proving it. By organising your company so that it’s built to learn, you can save yourself the endless hours that many entrepreneurs work before taking a ‘perfect’ product to market. In his book The Lean Start-up: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries, who failed several times before realising there had to be a better way, says that believing in your own plan is probably the worst thing a start-up can do.

Even with a great business plan in hand, you have to ensure that reality conforms to your plan and that you don’t just assume you are right.

He notes that learning that your product is all wrong can lead to a ‘pivot’ in your business plan — as it did for Sorted Circus.

Failure led to a change in strategy, and here’s what is important: All a pivot is, is a change in strategy without a change in vision. And whenever entrepreneurs see a new way to achieve their vision — a way to be more successful — they have to be nimble enough to take it.

Related: Turning a Perfect Formula on its Head: The Lean Start-Up

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.