We are college students that recognize the value of using our time efficiently. We want to empower students to make money while helping their peers. In essence, we see the college campus as a dense network of people who can share resources and time to create a powerful community. Fireflies is our way of redefining the sharing economy on college campuses.
What it does
My friends and I often stay up late at night for exams. We miss out on eating dinner, and after midnight, ordering food is no longer a possibility. At the same time, there are numerous students that are out and about at that time. They pass by restaurants, grocery stores, or even coffee shops. Using the Fireflies app, I can request a meal from Taco Bell or any other local restaurant that does not have its own delivery. The app leverages the Alohar API and notifies someone inside the restaurant, passing by, or just around the corner. With the granular details Alohar provides, our algorithm quickly matches students requesting food with people in the vicinity of that restaurant. Once a match is found, the transaction for the food goes through and Fireflies escrows the money using Braintree. Once my peer brings me the food, the payment is released.
How we built it
We built Fireflies with Alohar as a native Android app from scratch for the very first time this August. We aimed to leapfrog off of other existing solutions, and accordingly we integrated several APIs and material design strategies to really vibe with our users. Additionally, we tinkered with delivery ideas in the past and created mockups and surveys to understand user behavior. However we never were able to build a comprehensive solution till now. Until we found Alohar, there was no good way to efficiently track our users and develop a context specific algorithm to enable delivery. We are excited to release this app, complete with designs based off actual user feedback, Alohar integration, and payment systems.
Challenges we ran into
One non-obvious challenge that we ran into while building Fireflies was that our users really didn’t know what to expect when we did user testing. The idea of our app was originally much broader, and we gave users lots of control in the app to to order anything and get it delivered anywhere. (One use case was getting problem sets handed in by peers for their classes). We left a text box for the users to enter what they needed and how much they’d pay. However this was challenging in that the users didn’t know what to put in the text boxes, and if they did, they didn’t know how much to pay. We solved this by eliminating user inputs and giving them a few options with predetermined prices. The app became much smoother, and we noticed a visible improvement in user happiness. This sort of standardization required that we do a lot of work on the backend. When we integrated locations and routes along with pricing, we needed to automate the process to be extremely precise. Alohar provided the information we needed and helped us apply it well within the context of the problem we were trying to solve.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Getting the most out of the Alohar API is something we are extremely proud of. Alohar provides us with insights on where a user's home location and work location could be. We use that data to extrapolate where the user is going. By taking into consideration several contextual nodes such as time of day, user's past transactions, direction user is heading, and other deliveries being done at that moment, we create optimal matches that saves buyers time and money. In the same way, we optimize routes for deliverers so that they can make the most money possible and complete several deliveries in one go.
What started out as a simple hack ended up providing convenience for people ordering on the go. The app is also a quick and efficient way for other student to make money without going out of their way. Our team is extremely proud of the fact that we can bring people together, empower them to earn, and provide this instant convenience at the tap of a button. We have placed a lot of attention on a seamless user experience. The way we integrated the Alohar API drives our real time, context-based deliveries. Compared to other conventional food delivery applications, we save time and money for the people who order. Likewise, we are extremely proud of nurturing a community where people can mutually benefit from helping one another. In many ways, we are reinventing the traditional supply chain of ordering and delivering. Thanks to Alohar, we were also able to build on existing user behavior rather than forcing users to change what they do and where they go everyday. We are proud of championing Fireflies as a seamless convenience that makes communities stronger.
What I learned
As active entrepreneurs, we are constantly hit with an abundance of advice and strategies in creating a product. However, we have found that the only sure way to absorb this advice is to actually go out to the market, talk to our target audience, reflect on our own experiences as potential users, and iterate based on the data we collected. We have obtained insights that we never could have gotten from listening to people speak. We have a persistent, never-give-up attitude and are excited to launch Fireflies equipped with Alohar at college campuses around the country.
What's next for Fireflies
We will launch Fireflies at MIT and Drexel for Fall 2015. As we scale and gain traction we will expand to other schools in Boston and Philadelphia. Our goal is to reach a certain number of daily transactions at each campus we launch at before expanding. We will want to build a rating system and partner with nearby restaurants to make ordering food even more convenient. A long term vision we have for Fireflies is to expand to other communities on a global scale. We see communities that are well connected among neighbors, friends, family members, coworkers, and more. Colleges are a starting point, but we want to keep building, pivoting and tailoring this service to empower different communities across the world.