OLIO aims to help consumers reduce food waste by connecting people to exchange surplus food.

While Simpleweb has been busy working on creating the first iteration of the OLIO app, founders Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook have been busy drumming up interest and validating their idea with an interesting experiment using WhatsApp.

OLIO will be initially launching in Crouch End, London, an area that Saasha and Tessa know well and where they have already built up a valuable network. By focusing their MVP on Crouch End, Saasha and Tessa will be able to test OLIO on a smaller group of people, allowing them to improve it through further iterations before rolling out across London and other cities.

“Crouch End is renowned for its villagey feel and community spirit” says Saasha “and it is also home to dozens of healthy cafes and upscale food retailers, making it an obvious candidate for the OLIO MVP.”

To get a deeper understanding of how users would interact with OLIO, Saasha and Tessa set up a WhatsApp group that allowed 12 strangers and 1 health food retailer to post their surplus supplies and save their neighbours’ food from going to waste.

After the trial, Tessa and Saasha met up with 5 of the participants to discuss their experiences, and intend to catch up with the others soon. They learned a lot about how users would interact with OLIO, and they were able to write off one feature they expected users would want.

It turned out that participants would prefer to leave anonymous feedback, rather than 2-way public feedback, as they would feel uncomfortable rating their neighbours who they might regularly bump into.

“2-way feedback is an expensive and complex feature to build” notes Saasha, “and if we hadn’t done the trial and spoken with our users we probably would have just gone ahead and built it, as it’s a standard feature in other peer to peer marketplaces.”

Another participant loved using the group so much that they persuaded Saasha and Tessa reopen it, who agreed to keep it running so that they could continue learning from the participants’ experiences.

OLIO will be launching in Crouch End very soon. If you’re interested in using OLIO where you live, sign up to their list now!

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