Well, it's been just over nine months since GreatAlbum Joined the Pioneer Incubator Community and three months since our six month update In that time...

  • Weekly Updates - we've submitted updates 42 out of 43 weeks - 37 week streak
  • Our Pioneer score - has gone from 30,917 to 45,336
  • Our global rank - we broke the top 100 on 30-March to 54th in June to 15th the last two weeks
  • Our US East rank - we broke the top 50 on 26-January to 17th in June to 5th the last three weeks

We've reviewed a many Pioneer player's sites/apps multiple times and enjoyed following their progress over time. 

In that same period, I've attended over 40 weekly Pioneer Players Thursday zoom calls. While I've met with 15-20 players across these calls, in the last several months I've found a really nice rhythm with four other players in particular:

We've developed such a great bond that when Pioneer ended the weekly calls the end of August (participation had dwindled) that we've continued to hold our own call to keep each other going! 

While our rank is pretty good in the Pioneer Incubator, and we continue to get good value out of providing and receiving feedback on weekly updates, we look forward to getting MUCH MORE value from this program once we relaunch our MVP, which we're aiming to do by the end of September. More on that in one of my next posts. 

After cracking the global top 50 in the Pioneer Incubator yesterday (see previous update), we received our first feedback from a "Pioneer Expert." Here is what they said. 

Interesting idea—how do you think about the improvements that Great Album makes over existing solutions (like iOS's "memories" or "albums" feature that uses location/image metadata to group like images). I think there's a few dimensions to this problem: need, effort, and scale. On need, I'm guessing that this problem is something that most people would bucket into a "nice-to-have" and a small number of people view this as a pressing problem. How are you finding the group of people that are already doing this manually who would benefit most from Great Album? This is closely related to effort as I'm sure many people enjoy going through the Photos app on their iPhone and seeing some of the nice compilations Apple has made (trip to Japan, times spent with your cat, etc.). but wouldn't go out of their way to create these albums. Lastly, it depends entirely on your desire to turn Great Album into a venture-scale business vs. a lifestyle business, but in either case it'd be interesting to get a sense for what market size looks like.

We'll review you again after you submit another 2 progress updates.

Note that while about half of our Pioneers were selected after 1-2 months in the Tournament, others have persisted for far longer before winning -- even as long as a year!

Keep at it. We remain ever eager to see what you do next!

- The Pioneer Team



The Pioneer team raises some good points. Here are my replies:

  • Need - I believe there is a much greater latent pain that people experience by not being able to easily browse, share and relive their experiences through their media, even if they aren't really expressing it now. No one missed having an iPhone before it was created, but now they couldn't live without it. I've conducted close to 70-80 customer interviews over the past 18 months, and 90%+ of the time, the response has been along the lines of, "OMG, that would be amazing if I could do that with GreatAlbum." Once people experience the joy having their media more accessible and shared, I think they won't want to live without it.
  • Effort - People don't go out of their way to create these albums because it's time consuming - not just to create the album itself, but even more so to then identify all the people you really want to share it with. This is where GreatAlbum will dramatically simplify the experience, by creating albums once for each specific collection of members, then auto-creating events based on clusters of photos (which the user can refine as desired), and then making it easy to share those events into the appropriate new or existing albums, based on who they want to enjoy the event.
  • Scale - good point on my preference for this to be venture-backed or a lifestyle business. I think it's deserving of become venture backed, but I've been conservative so far about really trying to take that plunge. At the moment, I want to get the Private Beta running again and prove product-market fit. 

Pioneer TrackerWell, it's been just over six months since GreatAlbum Joined the Pioneer Incubator Community. In that time...

  • Weekly Updates - we've submitted updates 27 out of 28 weeks (we forgot to submit an update the weekend after New Year's Day, when we were still on holiday).
  • Our Pioneer score - has gone from 30,900 to 41,094
  • Our global rank - has gone from so high it was unreported to breaking the top 100 on 30-March to 54th this week (we were actually 50th after Monday's scoring, then dropped to 54th after feedback star scoring)
  • Our US East rank - has gone from too high to be recognized to top 50 as of 26-January and top 20 as of 30-March.

We've reviewed a number Pioneer player's sites/apps multiple times and enjoyed following their progress over time. And see our first feedback from the Pioneer team and my response.

In that same period, i've attended 25-26 weekly Pioneer Players Thursday zoom calls. Where possible, the Pioneer facilitator for each call tries to group the same players together week after week. While I've met with 15-20 players across these calls, I've found a really nice rhythm with three other players in particular:

Early on, our calls would go in a round robin, with each of us getting ten minutes to highlight a problem we're facing and get feedback from others. More recently, our calls have evolved into deep-dives into one or two specific issues each time, which has enabled us to have more much meaningful conversations about how to address those issues. We've also developed a wonderful sense of collaboration between ourselves and partnered up on other activities together.

As we look forward to completing our Beta6 sprint and relaunching our Private Beta (which we paused at the start of Beta5 to rebuild on the OpenSocial distribution of Drupal), we're excited to dramatically ramp up our user base, determine just how strong our product-market fit (PMF) is, and see how we fare in Pioneer incubator competition. It should be a wild ride!


Pioneer TrackerTo further explain how Pioneer scoring works, here are explanations for several of the factors:

  • Ratings from players and experts:  Your score will change as other participants and experts vote on you during the Pioneer Tournament. Scores change based on the quality of other players. For example, if you’re upvoted over a top player, you’ll get more points than if you’re upvoted over a low-ranked player. You still get points if you’re upvoted over a low-ranked player—just not as many. The best way to reach and maintain a high score is to demonstrate impressive progress every week.
  • Progress update streak: You get 50 points for each consecutive progress update you submit. You can't get more than 200 points, but you'll drop back down to 0 when you break your streak!
  • Votes you've submitted: These are points you've received from voting on other players' progress updates over the last 4 weeks (200 points max).
  • Feedback to other players: These are points you've received from players liking your feedback for them over the last 4 weeks. You get 25 points for each piece of feedback other players like, up to 100 points per week.

Pioneer App LogoAs I was reading through some blog posts by Daniel Gross, I stumbled up an app/community he helped build, called Pioneer. Pioneer is both an app and a community. It helps founders track progress, get advice, and get funded. In a nutshell, the way it works is members compete in the weekly Pioneer Tournament:

Step 1 - Join with your project

  • Register, fill out a profile about you as a person/founder
  • Fill in a detailed profile about your startup project or business

Step 2 - Compete in the Pioneer Tournament

Each week, there's a process that takes place

  • Sunday, submit a progress update on your project
  • Monday
    • Our update gets reviewed by 5-10 other Pioneer members who give feedback
    • At the same time, we review updates submitted by others and give our feedback; this is an interesting process, as we review updates in pairs and indicate whether "Player A" or "Player B" gave the best update that week 
  • Tuesday
    • Leaderboards are updated with latest rankings, based on feedback from players and "experts" (presumably Pioneer employees or advisors)
    • We each review feedback we received and rate the top three comments
    • At the same time, our feedback to other players is reviewed by them; If someone "stars" our feedback for them, we earn 25 points
    • We can earn up to 100 points each week, and retain up to 400 points over the last four weeks that contributes to our score that week
  • Thursday
    • A select group of Pioneer Players are invited to a zoom call, where we break out in small groups to discuss challenges we're working through

Step 3 - Reach the Global Top 50

  • The goal is to become on of the top 50 players in the Pioneer Tournament
  • Of course, most don't achieve that, so they complete to be one of the top players on the regional leaderboards: US East, US West, Americas (Non-US), Europe, Africa, Asia & Oceania

Step 4 - Get selected by an expert to become a Pioneer

  • For Pioneers who are recognized as one of the top players, they occasionally receive the Pioneer Offer. For a 1% of your company, you receive access to a network of elite founders. a 2-month remote startup accelerator program, and a whole bunch of other perks

I've documented all my submissions so far, along with top feedback comments at GreatAlbum Involvement in Pioneer Community