It’s been 653 days since we took the 1st step to solving ‘adulthood’. This is a note on our journey so far, why all our products & communities didn’t work out, and our pivot to helping teens through mentorship.
1000 super fans and community (Feb’22)
When we started Ripen, our plan was simple, get to 1,000 super fans who would tell us how we can solve adulting for them. Run experiments with them, become our early users, and vouch for us!
To get things rolling, we started building a live, cohort-based learning program on everything from finance to dating and habit-building. This worked out well, our users loved what we did for them and it helped us grow our community of over 10,000 humans.
Launch of our 1st app! (April '23)
We always had the intention to build something to scale - a sidekick app for adulting. In theory, it sounded great but in reality, it was the hardest thing to figure out. It went through a lot of changes over 6 months before it went live in early April 2023.
The app would help young adults achieve life goals like getting insurance/moving to a new city through tasks, content, and community.
However, after testing it with 2,000 users in 2 weeks, we realized that even though users signed up for goals, they failed to be motivated. There was a lack of urgency. Users weren’t acting on their tasks and procrastination was a huge concern.
The Relaunch: (July ’23)
To fix the motivation problem, we wanted to make conquering goals like playing a game. We were sure of one thing "If there's one language in the world that everybody speaks, it's Money".
We felt that if people stake money and compete with their friends, they are more likely to hit their goals. This could go global, the behavior of betting with friends on habits/goals has unofficially always habits existed in every society.
We tested the model on WhatsApp groups with around 1000 people. Our early users were willing to stake money and the results were solid. We decided to rebuild the app for this but it didn’t work the way we wanted, here’s why:
A couple of weeks before ‘money betting’ went live on the app, the government introduced 28% GST on online gaming. So, we had to scrap the money-staking feature.
Without money, our original product and business model wouldn’t work. Our thesis could never be implemented.
We still launched the app with plans of building an in-app currency. We initially saw magic, our user engagement and retention were solid for a month.
But intuitively we knew that this was a dead-end, users would lose motivation and no business could be made here. This product would neither be sustainable, nor revolutionary.
Throughout this phase of June to August, we worked on building a few more products that solved a rather small, yet painful part of adulthood. But we realized with focus distorted & limited tech bandwidth, we decided to go into the thinking mode for the weekend.
After that thinking sprint, we realized, that what matters to us as founders is the success of the company. As founders, we constantly estimate and re-estimate the odds of things working out.
After everything we have learned and experienced, we just don’t think what we’re trying to do could work anymore. “Adulthood” cannot be solved by an app, it's impossible to productize the entirety of it.
It can only be solved through peer-to-peer conversation, and that's why our community!
You can’t solve a problem if you think you can’t. Currently: our excitement and confidence to work on a new mission > how things were going with our apps/ number of months we’ve spent on it.
But we’re optimistic! We're clear on our next mission in what was supposed to be a casual visit to a school.
It started when one of our founders visited the school the graduated from. While talking to the teachers, it was evident that there was a massive crisis going on with teenagers right now. It’s something we deeply care about because our team just recently went through it, so we relate to the gap in the market.
Teachers talked about teens struggling with everything from body image, and peer pressure to addictions. We decided to talk to as many parents and teens to understand what’s really going on.
Here’s what we learned:
Parent side: Feel like today’s teens face extremely complex problems and they're just not able to help them out.
Teen side: They feel extremely lonely and don’t know who to share their problems with. Parents don’t relate, they don’t want to seem weak in front of friends. So who do they talk to?
We realized that there are only two alternatives for teens:
- career counseling.
But strongly believe that there’s a middle ground! Something that helps the teen build a strong mindset, and deal with hurdles while also gaining career clarity.
That’s where we want to be! Transformative 1:1 virtual mentorship for teens, to figure out how a career actually works, and talk about all of their life problems that their parents don't seem to get. Teens need a role model that they can look up to!
We talked to every teen we could and understood that a lot of them need the right exposure, without a very "formal" setting.
We discussed it with the team, and everyone had a cousin or a junior that they'd been helping navigate through the most fragile years of their life: Teenage.
You see, psychometric tests tell you what you're good at – but give you no exposure to those professions. Your parents tell you how to navigate bullying, but they haven't actually been through it in the recent past.
Insight: Kids need mentors they can relate to
To build our thesis, we talked to over 50 parents, teens & adolescent counselors, and we learned a lot. Here are additional nuggets of insights we discovered:
- The parent-teen gap is increasing. The teens don't share anything with them.
- Your elder sibling (if any) relates to teen problems far more.
- The internet and social media have done more damage than good so far.
- Psychometric tests aren't enough to solve career confusion.
- Therapy is still a stigma, parents are pro-career counseling.
- Sharing life problems with peers kicks in during college, not during teenage.
- Parents acknowledge that their teens do not share what they're going through.
- Parents are most concerned about their children during their teenage.
Every counselor/therapist we talked to has unanimously said that "this is the need of the hour".
This isn’t counselling nor is it therapy
This is giving your teen an opportunity to express their problems and set goals with mentors they can relate to.
A teen mentorship model has not been explored at scale in India. There are none that balance 'well-being' with a career, focused on teens.
Our plan is to provide transformative 1:1 mentorship over 4-24 weeks with a trained young adult (21-25) for teenagers to increase self-esteem, set goals, reduce career confusion & get the right direction.
Here’s how it works:
We’re in the space between therapy and career counseling. We want to bring together the best of both worlds because we understand that a teen’s mental well-being is key to clarity about their future.
A kid has too much to figure out and too many options, don't you agree?
We’re focused on connecting your teen to a mentor with similar values, paths, difficulties, and cities - a mentor they can relate to. Someone who just knows the world 5-7 years more than them.
We are currently in beta with 20 teenagers across Delhi-NCR, Bangalore & Chennai in under a week. All our teens were super excited to try it out!
To paint a picture, these are the 6 weeks goals of one of the mentees:
- Invite 2 new friends for a sleepover
- Spend 20 minutes after lunch & dinner on the dining table with dad
- Talking to a footballer, a corporate lawyer & a software developer
We build daily systems to hit 6-week goals. We hear them out on everything they need. We put them in touch with young & cool career specialists. With customer feedback, parent feedback & guidance from our clinical board, we're sure we can scale this across the globe.
Our 6-month goal is to transform the lives of 1,000+ teens and create strong advocacy from the parent community by building high trust, laser-focus on great service, and seeing tangible results.
It's not easy. Nor for us, nor for everyone who has supported us before. Because we're venturing into a different space altogether.
But with a dream to create the internet's future leaders and a clear roadmap, we are stepping into unchartered territory.
For adults, please continue to support us. Our community will always be open for you to be a part of Ripen :')
All our love,
Heet, Ritvik & Aviral.