From Product Manager to Co-founder: Reflections from a Graduate of the First Smartly MBA Class

Playbook UX Founders

The following post is by Lindsey Allard (MBA 2016), Co-founder of PlaybookUX, a video-based user feedback solution for B2B companies. 

It was 2015, and I had recently graduated from Dartmouth College with a liberal arts degree. I was looking for a way to gain general business knowledge while working as a product manager, and I came across the Smartly MBA. During my time in the program, I loved the courses because I was able to learn useful concepts in a short, quiz-like format that fit with my full-time work schedule. I didn’t have to stare at endless textbook passages. Everything was on my smartphone, and I could constantly test myself to ensure the content was committed to memory.

After my Smartly graduation in 2016, I worked as a product manager at a new company. I was leading a team of developers building SaaS products and mobile apps. Product managers are like “mini CEOs”. You need to know a little about a lot of things, and Smartly helped expand my areas of expertise during this point in my career.

After a few years of working at different start-ups, I decided to take the leap and co-found my user research company PlaybookUX with another Smartly alum, Kristen. User research is the process of getting feedback on things like product usability, pricing model, marketing copy, and concepts. By getting direct feedback from your target demographic, you are able to make better product and business decisions. However, as I know from my time as a product manager, the process of conducting user research has big challenges, like being extremely time-consuming and requiring a lot of manual work. And I didn’t see solutions out there that successfully addressed all the problems.

When developing PlaybookUX we sought to solve three main pain points:

      • It’s time-consuming
      • It’s expensive
      • Finding the right participants is challenging for B2B companies

Here’s how we solve these pain points with PlaybookUX:

      • Our product solicits video-based feedback, so that product owners can remotely conduct research, and then easily store and reference video records, ultimately saving them lots of time.
      • Again on the saving-time front, we do everything from recruiting the right participants, to incentivizing them, transcribing the sessions, and analyzing the videos with A.I. to extract actionable insights.
      • We have an affordable, pay-for-what-you-use pricing model so that customers don’t need to commit to large subscription fees up-front. This expands access to UX research to start-ups, founders, and small business owners. Previously, they were priced out.
      • Our testing participants are verified through LinkedIn so businesses know exactly who they’re speaking to.

During the process of launching my company, I leaned on Smartly lessons. Financial topics were always difficult to wrap my head around, and I was able to successfully price our product and build our business model with that in mind.

On top of the valuable knowledge gained from Smartly, I’ve been able to leverage the student network to get in touch with like-minded product managers. The network is a strong supplement to my undergraduate network.

At PlaybookUX our goal is to make user testing accessible to everyone. At the time of this post, we’ve been launching for a few months. It’s been a great few months—with hundreds of clients using our platform. We’ve had success with UX Researchers and Designers, but our goal is to make research easy for Product Managers. In the future, I plan to lean on the Smartly network for advice on growth hacking to take PlaybookUX to the next level.