Increasing conversion rates with a lean startup approach

My friends say I was brave to take the entrepreneurial route. I’d like to believe that.
A web mockup of concludio editor
  • Challenge: Trial users do not convert into customers
  • Industry: Edtech
  • Device: Web
  • Research: Churn survey, onboarding survey, fullstory observations
  • Steps: Testing assumptions, prioritising feedback, solution brainstorming, implementation
  • Constraints: Limited time
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Impact: Even though the conversation rates increased, it was insignificant, so we ran out of time and money :'(
  • Highlight: We achieved so much in so little time as a small startup team

Table of contents

About concludio: my entrepreneurial initiative

A fresh graduate and a penniless immigrant with no business knowledge. That’s who I was when I decided to help a friend build concludio. It all started as my co-founder’s dream to make math easy for everyone. He already had developed part of the logic behind, but he had no usable interface. That’s where I came in. 😎

Within the first 6 months, I ideated, prototyped, tested, and developed the concludio interface. I based my work on the 10 usability heuristics for UI design and the fresh knowledge of UI design patterns I had from my master's thesis. 🧐

As a result, concludio offered an intelligent online math editor for solving mathematical exercises step-by-step and getting instant feedback on the solution.

concludio editor UI
concludio editor UI

I keep wearing multiple hats

As a duo, we embarked on the challenging journey that lay ahead of us. My co-founder with full stack development superpowers and myself, a multi-class hybrid monster, bringing together frontend programming, graphic design, and UX knowledge. 🤓

Make math easy for everyone?

Well, not exactly every single person out there. We targeted first year bachelor students who had math courses in their curriculum, i.e. anyone between “math sucks, but I have to do it” and “math rocks and I need more”.

We had two reasons for focusing on this target group. Firstly, we wanted to start small and support only topics that were relevant for the first study year. Secondly, our market research indicated that the highest student drop-off occurred in the first year, so we aimed to decrease that number.

Our trial users are leaving us...

In this portfolio, I want to highlight a key challenge we faced as a startup: low conversion rates. Our marketing ads generated interest and attracted many trial users, showing market interest. However, we struggled to convert these trial users into paying customers during the free trial period.

Quick do something!

At this point in time, we had an MVP, where one could already solve a variety of mathematical exercises in our editor, while the feedback on the solution path was more generic and less precise.

I had my assumptions why our users were not converting, and that’s why the first step towards solving our problem was to test my assumptions via a churn survey.

The subscription cancellation dialog on concludio asking for user feedback
concludio subscription cancellation dialog

That dialog seems quite dramatic in retrospective. 😅 It showed every time a user cancelled their subscription.

The assumptions I tested were:

  • The immediate feedback on the solution steps is not helpful
  • The content is not relevant
  • The user does not understand how to solve an exercise in our editor
  • It is expensive

An excel sheet with aggregated data on why users were not cancelling subscriptions
The top answer was the irrelevant content.

The lean startup

We had only one scholarship year to collect proper funding or sell our product. Therefore, time was of the essence. Based on the user feedback, I prioritized solving the issues that were the most common answer, but also that were easier to tackle and would already bring a lot of value for us.

We jumped directly from identified problems to solution implementations so we could fail fast.

Validated assumption: Irrelevant content

The top issue was irrelevant content, hence I added a classic onboarding step to collect the topics our users would like to learn. Based on the topic popularity, we supported more and more math topics. This also indicated that our target group was broader than we initially anticipated.

The topic selection onboarding screen of concludio
Solution 1: concludio onboarding - topic selection

Validated assumption: Difficulty in solving exercises

The second issue was the difficulty in solving exercises in our editor. Now, the real problem here was not straightforward. First off, it was difficult inputting a mathematical formula with a keyboard. We tackled this by adding handwriting support for mobile devices.

Scanning QR code on concludio web app to connect to mobile device for handwriting the math solutions
Solution 2: Handwriting feature of concludio on the web app
A mathematical formula handwritten on a mobile device
Solution 2: Handwriting feature of concludio on the mobile device

On top of that, since we enforced quite a formal way of solving mathematical exercises, it was not easy for our users to understand what to do at each solution step. This occurred because of a lack of fundamental knowledge in math, which we aimed to address. To tackle this we added an explanation and an example for each step.

Selecting the steps in the concludio editor via a dropdown menu that explains what each mathematical step does through examples
Solution 3: Step selection on concludio editor

Additionally, we offered video tutorials for some of the exercises on how to solve them in concludio. This would teach them how to use concludio, but also how to logically solve the exercises.

The endgame

Through screen recording observations, I noticed that the mobile handwriting solution was not used at all, while the example explanations didn't seem to guide our users in solving the exercises.

However, by supporting more desired math topics and adding tutorials on how to solve the exercises in concludio, we noticed a slight increase in the conversion rates. It was not enough to sustain us, but it was hope.

After one year of scholarship funding and 3 months of UG, we ran out of money and shut concludio down.


Given that we were operating in a very fast environment, the lean startup method was the way to go in my opinion. But if I were to do the entire product again, instead of spreading thin, I would:

  1. Discover the desired topics first.
  2. Support only these topics perfectly.

As for the business side, I would:

  1. Network, network, network.
  2. Sell the idea before implementing.
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