Terrapn was a web application that helped food lovers collect and share their favorite places on earth. As the CEO and original founder (the original names included "Zipdom" and "OneDay"), I set the company vision, growth strategy, and product roadmap.
Finding the right problem
When I first moved to San Francisco in 2008, there wasn't an easy way to get to know the city and find the right neighborhood that matched my personality. After reading every book I could find about startups and product development, I started sketching product ideas.
I quickly discovered the importance of talking to dozens and dozens of potential customers to validate a problem. After joining forces with a former NASA engineer, we learned that people cared most about saving and sharing their favorite restaurants. We made the proverbial pivot and focused our approach on the food world, which proved the be the right move for our product.
To speed development time, I drove the user experience design, user research, usability testing, and front end development, working with my co-founder who led all back end development and infrastructure. I mostly used my notebook to draw mockups for Terrapn to review them with my co-founder and put concepts in front of users. Then, we'd go directly to coding.
Developing the Terrapn brand, design elements, and "look and feel" meant wearing both my strategic brand marketing and design execution hats. Leaning heavily on the brand management experience I had at Johnson & Johnson, I created the brand palette, icon, logotype and logo lockup, as well as our default user avatars.
By the way, "Terrapn" has two meanings: "terrapin" is a type of turtle, which was the inspiration for Tommy, our icon, and conveys that the product helped you "pin" your favorite places on earth ("terra"). Tommy's body is actually a location marker turned on an angle, so he literally embodied the meaning of our brand.
Given our founding team was comprised of two women, both of different races, it was important for us to show diversity in our product, down to the gray avatars, which were assigned randomly to new users, if they didn't sign up with Facebook.
SF Restaurant Week
Being a part of SF Restaurant Week was a major win for us and was the first time we got our product in front of tens of thousands of users, while meeting the needs of an influential new customer.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, organizers of the renowned SF Restaurant Week, wanted a customizable and embeddable map to show off the 100+ participating restaurants in their major annual event. More importantly, they wanted a map that was beautiful enough to fit with their web design and Terrapn was exactly what they needed. Because the goal of this event was to bring diners into restaurants, we added a custom reserve button on our widget, which over 6% of all visitors to sfrestaurantweek.com clicked to book a table.
Terrapn hit some exciting milestones — we had stellar weekly retention, we were the "official map" of SF Restaurant Week, Terrapn was featured on Product Hunt, we recruited a top tier Advisory Board, and we landed a coveted partnership with OpenTable — but not all the stars aligned and we realized it was time to wind down in June 2015.
But... even projects that die live on in other ways. Out of Terrapn came Menu Stories, a passion project I continue to work on with a talented team that shares my passion for food, history, and storytelling.