Digital Service Innovation 



March - May 2020

Project Management


Lean Business Model

Customer Discovery

Research (PESTLE, POG, User Interviews)

Design Methods (Personas, Pre & Prototyping)


Project Manager

Service Designer

Pipod is a digital service that intends to humanize student engagement on campus and making students feel more connected to their communities.


Kristel Yu, Elysha Tsai, Bella Lin, Tony Zhang

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Watch us pitch to our investors

Generating Start-Up Ideas


Key Concepts I Applied

Conflict resolution & communication

Pre mortem + team contract​


Recognizing needs and opportunities​

Identifying Users

Interviews, customer research ​

Competitor analysis

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Our startup ideas and pivots

Pitching my idea to others
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I pitch idea of WorkL!ve and was one of the top voted ideas out of 50 people. This formed the team I worked with and the initial idea of designing a service that focused on productivity and working alone.

We first conducted a pre-mortem exercise, where we imagined how a team might have failed in working together to mitigate this in real life. To solidify each person's role and engagement in the team, we made a team contract listing our skillsets and some team criteria. 

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Pre-mortem and team contract

What are the social painpoints of college students?
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As we interviewed more people, we realized that although staying in focus when working at home alone was a painpoint that students experience, it was not to a degree that students wanted to invest too much time and money into. ​

Our interviews showed us that college students experienced more frustrations in social aspects such as loneliness and disengagement from their community more than ever, especially during a pandemic. 

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As a startup project, it's important to treat ideas objectively and understand when to let go of past ideas, no matter how much time you had invested into it. Therefore, as a team, we made the decision to refocus our service on humanizing campus engagement for college students as we saw that there was a major gap in the current system.

Opportunity Framing & Research Verification


Key Concepts I Applied



PESTLE/SET analysis


Competitor analysis

Lean business model


Finding our specific audience 
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It's important to understand our users as much as possible before creating any sort of prototype - you want to be able to be as certain as possible that this is a needed product before making too much investment.


We conducted one-to-one interviews with a variety of students and faculty to achieve a holistic view of the problem space to then narrow the key problem. We interviewed more students because as a team, we wanted to focus on the student's experience in engagement as we saw its potential.

Secondary research to frame our opportunity
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We conducted PESTLE research analysis and product opportunity gap analysis to further prove that there was a need for a service in this space. I synthesized our finding from our interviews to create our POG to allow others to more quickly understand the problem we are trying to produce a solution for. 

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Showing users why they should choose us
Planning for real implementation
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We planned to leverage an existing platform, The CMU Bridge, to first test out the key features of Pipod on a club organization (around 15 members). I thought that using what is already built out would inform us in a very cost efficient way if our product will be successful in gaining student engagement.


Key Concepts I Applied


Concept video

UI Design

Telling our story
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I wanted to present our findings and thoughts that we had into a few key features to more easily tell our story. These features we decided would embody our customer insights.


I hoped our platform could focus on humanizing the campus engagement experience for students rather than the focusing on the functions you see on current college platforms that focus on club logistics or list information on clubs. Therefore, many of these features are designed with the student in mind:

1) Personal communication

Easily having access to 1-1 conversations with active club members to have a better understanding of the organization and to expand one's social circle

2) Visualizing Organization

Effectively visualize one's personal interests within the communities of your university and being able to locate where events/meetings are to easily match it with your schedule

3) Event Feed

Having a consistent event feed of current and upcoming events on campus and being able to receive notifications on events that you hold interest in.  

Pipod in a nutshell

I made a short concept video to further demonstrate our concepts and solidify our main features.  

Through making this content for our concept, I was reminded again of how important it is to tell a story and present to an audience our ideas in the most impactful way to persuade them. I tried to emphasize the emotional aspects of our student users and allow our audience to relate and empathize with these experiences. The walkthrough of our features is also simplified for our audience to be able to remember them. 

Validating Our Value


Key Concepts I Applied


Value Flow


Referencing back to stakeholders and validating our value

With our features in mind, I noticed that now as we understand how our product lives on a real market more, we needed to research into the college's student engagement department to understand the school's painpoints and needs.


I interviewed school faculty at SLICE (student engagement office), where they would be our main financial revenue for this service and received their perspective on student engagement and what they needed. From this, we were able to align stakeholder painpoints between students and the school and validate that the features we were building were valuable. 

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Interviewing the SLICE office faculty

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Demonstrating our product's value to investors

Validating our product's value and understanding the value flow is only one part of building a successful service. Any of this will not matter if we're not able to show this data and information to investors to attract their support. 

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I noticed from feedback when we presented our ideas to others that the most convincing way to show what we are providing is relevant and needed by talking with real people. Our team spent multiple occasions back with our target users and stakeholders to validate our ideas - it would be a waste not to emphasize our conversations and decisions!

Presenting to Investors


Key Concepts I Applied


Group presentation skills


We pitched to a total of 9 investors that came from diverse backgrounds, including Samuel Sturgeon, the Manager UX Research at Purple. 

Although we did not win with our pitch, I am extremely proud of our entire journey and I still strongly believe that our service, Pipod, holds value to our stakeholders.


For the future, I think that with more details on the features of our product such as a more developed interface walkthrough, pricing, then testing this product with real students to receive feedback (testing out MVP), we can persuade more people the relevance of our service.  


From this experience, I learned more about effective pitch presentations and how to develop a digital service from beginning to end. There are many details that one could include into a presentation to better persuade an audience that a product is feasible and will be successful with others in real life. Having the content is one aspect but being able to show others is another challenge.


I think our team struggled at times with member engagement. I would want to gain more abilities to effectively lead members of a team to do work with more excitement. I hope to creatively encourage and empower my teams in the future to voice their opinions and have self-autonomy in the project.