#MyFavoriteProduct May 30: Alexis Schuette on Simbi

Alexis Schuette is a Senior Product Manager at The Grommet and Agile enthusiast.  She is also the founder of InterACT Labs, a training organization focused on developing empathy, improving relationships, and harnessing energy in the workplace.  Find Alexis on LinkedIn and Twitter.

So Alexis, tell us about your favorite product and the problem it solves.

My favorite product is the platform Simbi.  They are a startup from the Y Combinator incubator program.  I’ve been using Simbi for a year and a half. In one sentence, it’s a platform for trading services without using real money.  For instance, I can trade a haircut for lessons around agile software development. Their tagline “The current economy isn’t working for the current economy” does a good job describing the problem they solve.  Exchanging goods is actually the oldest form of currency.

What delights you about Simbi? What does it do well?

First, the interface is great.  They clearly have talented designers and developers because the app makes finding new products really exciting.  There’s a great mobile app so you can use the tool on multiple devices. I just love the concept of it and finding other members of the community that have the same interest in the model.  In real life, I can’t just go up to someone and ask for a haircut. Also, they have a really supportive leadership team. I happen to be the chapter captain for Rhode Island and I’ve spoken to the CEO multiple times.  

No product is perfect and product managers love feedback. What feedback would you give to the product team at Simbi?

I think it’s challenging to build a product that relies on a strong community.  For a while, you have to accept everything and everyone in order to get off the ground.  So, starting out, it’s hard to tell when someone is an expert at something. It’s a tough balance because if the community doesn’t come through, you really mess it up and you lose customer trust.  Now, they do have a rating system but people are nice and supportive because that’s the type of community it is. But there’s no certification so if you’re going to provide a service, you need to certify in a different way, maybe connecting to LinkedIn.  It’s challenging.

As a product manager, what elements of the Simbi have you incorporated into your work?

I think our mission is to inspire.  Simbi makes it exciting and the openness is something I’m trying to instill in our community here.  We could do a better job of offering to help. Maybe you’ve never used our service before and need assistance?  Can we connect people within the community? It’s very common that users would rather be helped by other users, rather than a support team from the company.  For us to leverage our own community to build a stronger, more supportive platform is a takeaway of mine as a Product Manager.

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