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· Tim Riley

Announcing Dispatch, From Decaf Sucks

Today we’re proud to announce the launch of Dispatch, from Decaf Sucks. Dispatch is a coffee subscription service for Australia. Each month, we’ll deliver a bag of fresh, delicious coffee right to your door.

When we started Decaf Sucks, we wanted to help you find great coffee when you are out and about. Now with Dispatch, we can also help you enjoy the same great coffee at home. To take you on a tasty and informative coffee journey, we’ve partnered with some experts here in Canberra, the Lonsdale Street Roasters, who will be helping us to devise the schedule of beans and blends, as well as providing tips and tasting notes.

We can’t wait to share some coffee love around Australia.

Dispatch home page

Shipping Early, Shipping Often

This is a new kind of project for Icelab because it sees us shipping in a couple of interesting ways. Firstly, each month we’ll be bagging and posting bags of delicious, aromatic coffee. A different kind of labour to what we’re used to, but not unwelcome in any way.

Secondly, we conceived the business in one week and launched it in the next, spending a total of only three days designing and building the site. While this all happened quite quickly, we feel we’ve still been able to deliver a high quality experience. Here’s some of the things that worked for us:

Just Enough Business

We’ve started with the simplest business model we could make work. Simple, one-time, up-front payments for a fixed-length subscription. Deliveries will take place once per month for a single quantity of beans. Later on we will consider offering more frequent deliveries and different quantities of beans. For now, however, we’re offering the simplest possible product, to try out the business model.

The rest of this article is about building the application, but these points would all be moot if we didn’t have a viable product offering that worked from the very beginning. We want to build businesses, not just apps.

Beans from the Lonsdale St. Roasters

Less Mass, More Polish

The site has just two main pages, the home page and the order form. The underlying database has only one table. We take only a few of paragraphs of text to describe the service. The less we have to do, the better we can do it.

This smallness allowed us to spend quite a bit of time on polishing the details: the entire product description block on the homepage is clickable, taking you to the order form, where we use a nicely illustrated selector for your preferred grind type. Once you’ve ordered, you’ll receive an HTML order confirmation email that matches the site’s design, and if the order is a gift, we send out a custom gift certificate for including in a Christmas or birthday card.

These kind of details make the site a rewarding experience, and hopefully one that people will share with their friends.

Playing Well With Others

We chose to accept payments using PayPal. This meant we could disregard a whole bunch of things (like a merchant account, payment gateway, SSL, and in-app credit card handling) and launch faster without incurring any big up-front costs. This ensures we can test out the business model without over-exposing ourselves. Of course, using PayPal is not without its drawbacks, and we did end up losing service for 24 hours. Still, I think it was a worthwhile decision.

We’ve also eschewed any kind of server setup or configuration by hosting the app (which is built in Rails 3) on Heroku. With a single git push, we have hosting, a database, email delivery and a custom domain name all taken care of for us.

Trusting Your Teammates

We started the week with a big whiteboard discussion to clarify everything, and from there we set off to work. Apart from reviewing our progress at a one or two key points each day, we each worked long stretches without interruption, knowing what we had to do and trusting that our teammates did too. This brought us to a fully working version of the site much sooner, at which point we could then together pay more attention to the smaller details and behaviours. Of course, this all comes more easily after much experience working together. This is all the more reason to start working on some new projects with good people!

Join our Partnership of Caffeinated Love

This is a perfect new product for Icelab to offer alongside our regular client service work. It’s a product we enjoy and the extra work will all fall along a predictable monthly cycle. We’ve also found some passionate and easy to work with partners in the Lonsdale Street Roasters. It’s going to be a fun ride. Why don’t you join us for it and buy a subscription?