How We Re-Built Our Product to Have 2,000% More Traction

By Alain Meier on August 29, 2019

Today we’re releasing our brand new website, and along with it an announcement that we’re merging our previously separate brands, Cognito and BlockScore. BlockScore was our original product that aimed to make ID verification easier by making API integration as easy as Stripe made integrating payments.

Three years ago we took a major risk when we decided to rewrite our entire product and codebase to support a new vision that we called Cognito, a more secure and effective ID verification service. Rewrites notoriously spell the death of a project due to the amount of dead time spent not shipping features, but we coupled the change with an entirely new set of features that were impossible under our old infrastructure, and the results speak for themselves:

Along the way, we’ve learned the symptoms of having product-market-fit, and we wanted to document a few of them to help other companies who are considering a major change in their product lineup.

Lessons we learned

  • Re-writes don’t always spell the end of your company. They just need to be coupled with a major evolution in your core product offering rather than a re-write for the sake of code clarity.
  • Simplicity isn’t compelling enough. A product that offers simplicity in a complex environment isn’t always enough, and you shouldn’t be surprised if it provides middling growth results. Simplicity is not enough of a barrier to entry, though it can help you get a foothold in a market.
  • Aligning incentives with your customers makes selling easier. Instead of just verifying users more effectively, we built a product that could actually increase conversion rates while simultaneously decreasing fraud. This made our product more compelling to not just compliance teams, but also on-boarding optimization teams, who typically have more resources to integrate new solutions.
  • A great product will feel completely different to your sales team. Cognito exceeded the number of API transactions of our old product on the month that we publicly launched it. Selling and growing stopped feeling like running uphill within months of release and the product went from feeling “nice to have” to “must have”.
  • Having a small team makes major company changes an order of magnitude easier. We’ve always been very conservative with hiring and typically optimize for output per person rather than just raw output. This allowed the whole company to mobilize behind a new vision and efficiently work together to build, market, and sell a new product cohesively.
  • Pit your new product against your old product to learn about shortcomings and strengths. We have been careful to support customers on our old product to the same level as our new product, but provided them with an option to upgrade to our new systems. Customers who are willing to transition to a new product speak volumes about the quality of the new solution, and conversely, customers who are unwilling to upgrade present a learning opportunity.
  • Re-writing your messaging is equally as important as re-writing your product. The optimal messaging for a complex product widens the top of your funnel, which trickles down to more customers trying your fancy new product. Marketing and sales should be involved in new product launches as early as the development team is.
  • Treat your early testers well. Companies and individuals who are willing to help a nascent product should be rewarded with price breaks and perks, and in turn they will reward you with word-of-mouth referrals.

Cognito exceeded the number of API transactions of our old product on the month we publicly launched it

This is undoubtedly an exciting time for our company. We have always tried to operate with a certain level of modesty, but we are so excited about the future that we felt the need to share a little bit about what’s going on behind the scenes. Make sure to also check out  our two new upcoming products: a new version of our watchlist screening service, and business verification system.

If you’re interested in joining us, we would love to hear from you. While we will continue to maintain a lean team, we are currently hiring!

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