Startup #5: A zero-alcohol community
Cutting back on alcohol or given it up? ❌🍷
I’ve become more of a productivity nut over time, and am increasingly mindful of the things that work and really don’t work for me. One of the things I’ve become increasingly reluctant on is drinking alcohol, because of its fitness and energy level impact.
I decided to build a product in this space because of an increased awareness of how much of an underserved demographic there is here. There's no shortage of places to tell you where to drink socially: countless apps and guides, even Google Maps has a dedicated search filter for bars – but where is the opposite? Alcohol consumption is so ingrained into British and western culture that it forms the basis of a big chunk of social gatherings, but that leaves little room for alternatives.
There seems to be a growing movement of alcohol reduction, related to ever-growing interest in wellness, mindfulness and health. It's a hilarious modern contradiction to be on a careful diet, following an intense fitness regime but still recreationally poison yourself once or twice a week.
Looking online at non-drinking content, the information availability feels something like vegetarianism 10 or so years ago – where a tide will turn in the near future but there are no clear social/information hubs for this emerging group yet.
For those people that have taken the plunge to cut back, the options are pretty sparse. Think sipping soda water in a pub surrounded by friends that are drinking.
Just because one person has given up/decided to cut back, it doesn't mean their whole friendship group has. And a person isn't going to change their whole friendship group just for this (and shouldn't have to).
Enter Zero Percent Club – an external source of information, accountability and support, alongside other non-drinkers.
According to Forbes, >50% of people in the UK and US, and 95% in Spain are trying to cut back on consumption.
Certainly 30 day breaks have become common - for example, 'Dry January' - which 4 million people signed up to in the UK in 2018.
I think the core group for this are health and fitness-focused millennials, with a moderate disposable income – an overlapping group with those that do Crossfit and other intense fitness regimes.
Justin Kan (prominent entrepreneur) created a "No Drinks" Telegram group, effectively a large accountability group which quickly picked up ~1000 members.
What was interesting to note was that members would share helpful info/tips with each other but they would very quickly get buried under the UX of the chat app format.
For those users interacting with that relatively poor UX, there's clearly some scope for a community hub that unpacks the same information in a more intuitive format and can break conversations out into separate topics.
What was also very evident was the sheer number of people tracking the number of days that they hadn't drunk anything, but not using any one tool for this. There's a clear opportunity for a better UX solution for this behaviour as well.
Zero Percent Club aims to be the hub for non / minimal-drinkers, creating a highly engaged place for this growing demographic. ZPC intends to cater a variety of users, whether they're reducing for fitness, productivity or just as a personal challenge.
To kickstart the community it will use two components: a habit tracker bot 📈 and a community chat 👨👩👧👦:
- The habit tracker bot gamifies and incentivises continued non-drinking as well as making the service more sticky.
- The community will grow to be a useful resource, but in the short term it will attempt to expand the existing Telegram group (and similar) into a rich source of information and support.
These two parts provide an external source of motivation to resist nudges to drink from friends, creating a virtual community of non-drinkers to counter a user's physical community of drinkers. They also mutually enhance each other, driving adoption and leading people to the community (in theory 😬).
Everything in this core product will be free – because it's community-powered. Later revenue opportunities could include an online store, highly relevant events, or brand partnerships.
The MVP is a Telegram bot that prompts the user everyday as to whether they had a drink the previous day, creating a profile, timeline, streak and achievements from this small piece of information over time.
Simply because the 'No Drinks' group is on Telegram, so I'm meeting these users where they already are.
Why a chatbot?
For a low-friction experience – a user doesn't need to download a new app, but can simply get started on the messaging service that they already have. By prompting the user, it is not on them to remember, so they can simply be reactive instead of proactive.
Other design decisions:
Privacy-centric: As it uses Telegram usernames, each user is pseudonymous by default.
Multiple-entries: A user can discover the app online or via the Telegram bot and start using immediately, so they can pick up the service as quickly as possible (they don't get forced into one onboarding path).
Because I can't be certain about where a user is in the world, I had to be creative about having a daily scheduled message which wouldn't wake up some users at 4am. To solve this, the bot onboarding asks a user to share their location once (a single button tap), from this the app calculates the user's timezone and shifts their messaging schedule appropriately 💪
The game plan is to use the bot to get people in the door, start generating the community side of things – a forum and a later, a knowledge base. As the site becomes a richer source of information, it will potentially gain better search ranking for specific non-drinking queries, becoming the best source for this topic.
Later, I will engage the community to find out what tools that they want to see in the product, particularly places and events (see startup #6).
To test the bot functionality, I soft launched with the 'No Drinks' Telegram group and a few friends. With a slowly growing handful of users, the bot seems extremely sticky, with most users engaging every day – I'd assume because of a mix of gamification (via the streak and achievements) and extremely low friction – 2 finger taps per day.
It's also revealing some fascinating user behaviours. For example, some users actually don't tell the truth in order to maintain the non-drinking 'streak'. This doesn't mean that the product isn't working for them, but more so that the streak is actually compelling enough to keep users engaged and that it is still acting as a reminder.
One new feature that came out of the trial; a number of users asked for a leaderboard for Zeropercent, so I built a first version. This simply takes users current streak and orders them by longest to shortest, creating a nice, but friendly form of competition between users.
As everyone submits their next day’s streak, it will start to populate... but at least for now, I’m at the top! 🤷♂️
I launched! 💥
The launch was combined with another experiment – the 100 Day Challenge.
Read about it here:
Try it and let me know what you think: