Escape the City running on an iPad

Escape The City

From an in-house prototype to robust foundation that secured funding.

Escape the City, founded in 2010, started as a community driven project with a mission to help over a million people quit jobs they are unhappy or unfulfilled in. Founders Rob and Dom created a platform to help people discover exclusive Escape The City career opportunities, be that exciting new jobs aligned with their values, working remotely for causes they care about, or setting up their own businesses. Escape the City accomplishes this through its 'Escape School' courses and by providing access to job boards.

After outgrowing an in-house developed solution, they needed a safe option. Escape the City knew that in order to attract investors, they needed to build a robust platform with experienced and mindful product experts.

Escape the City - Rob Symington (Left), Dominic Jackman (Right)
Escape the City - Rob Symington (Left), Dominic Jackman (Right)

Taking a gamble

Escape the City had an old site based on PHP. In order to raise funding and accelerate the business growth, they urgently needed a higher quality technology platform that would help gain traction with users.

“We bet everything (90% of our cash) on hiring thoughtbot and working on improving the core tech of the product. It was a very risky decision, but our bet paid off.”

You have to have that trust and thoughtbot built trust very quickly.
thoughtbot team - Working on an exercise to solve a problem
thoughtbot team - Working on an exercise to solve a problem

One giant leap

Knowing the budget constraints and the growing pains Escape the City had with the previous in-house prototype, the thoughtbot team wanted to make sure we were mindful of their needs and support them in their startup journey.

We started with product design, moving on to build a solution, getting them into production as quickly as we could. Dominic relocated to our office for part of each week, sitting alongside the development team working very closely with them.

“We spent seven weeks with thoughtbot: two-week sprints, one-week sprint, a break and then two one-week sprints. That worked really well, it was like being in a space shuttle with the afterburners on because everything needed to be ready in a short space of time and we worked really hard. If we had gone the developer freelance route again, it would’ve taken us probably six months to get to where we got to with thoughtbot. So it was a more expensive solution in the short term, but we got there much more quickly.”

It was like being in a space shuttle with the afterburners on… we worked really hard

It paid off!

“We loved the way we worked together and how my thinking and methodology were challenged. I was never open to it before. I worked closely with the team at thoughtbot who were actually developing the product, using the agile methodology and design sprints. It was great how we broke down problems and solved them smoothly.

The biggest outcome for me personally was being up-skilled as a Project Manager and leaving [the thoughtbot engagement] with not only a powerful new platform, but also the skills to use while working with our own developers later - a long lasting solution.”

Escape The City networking event
Escape The City networking event

“We learned that having a robust platform with clean code was fundamental, because if you are building on a shaky foundation then everything is going to be shaky. With the strong foundation in place we were able to get to where we wanted to be much more quickly. It fast forwarded our progress. Instead of six months with hired developers, we got to achieve it in 7 weeks with thoughtbot. It also enabled us to get more traction and these were signals to get funding. It enabled us to start making money faster. User experience of the product was much better than our initial product as it was much more advanced.”

Escape the City website

Other key product outcomes for Escape the City:

  • Accelerated product development by 4 months.

  • Improved user experience.

  • Increased user traction.

  • Developed healthy product signals which helped secure funding.

  • Stimulated revenue generation.

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