How Cultural Development Product Takso Went from Proof of Concept to 15 Pilot Site Customers Australia-wide in Just 2 Years

A truly special partnership across 4 years now, I can trust the team's abilities and humanity. The Beta Launch team have been a critical part of developing the world-class cultural development product that Takso is today, used by some of the top cultural producers and institutions across Australia. 
John Smithies 

Executive Officer

Takso is a planning and evaluation software product by the Cultural Development Network (CDN), a non-profit based out of Melbourne, Australia, who push for greater legitimacy for cultural expression, to nurture a society that’s healthier, better engaged, and sustainable.
Their product Takso helps achieve predictable and more impactful cultural outcomes for organizations ranging from councils such as the City of Melbourne to cultural organizations like Western Edge Youth Arts and Beyond Empathy, through a tech framework to plan and evaluate their cultural activities accurately.

Below, we explore this multifaceted engagement that’s continued for 3-plus years, and involves various parts of Beta Launch’s Build-Grow and Scale solutions.

The Challenge of Moving from Proof of Concept to Actual Software Product and Scaling

As the CDN team worked to build on the proof of concept for Takso, or Whitebox as it was known at the time, with a team of in-house developers, numerous challenges were met. The proof of concept, while sufficient to test whether the software product could solve the cultural development outcomes problem that it set out to, was not an actual marketable product. It needed design and experience that fit the cultural sector, and problem-matched features to ensure proper functionality for users across the sector.

The skills necessary to transfer the early framework onto a usable platform and then build actual features, from design, through to an agile development approach involving iteration cycles and prioritization of features, were lacking within their previous setup. In going to the new market, the early pilot sites too needed to be onboarded to the new platform.

The additional problem of unpredictable capital access, a common issue in the non-profit sector, hampered their progress and the pace of development. The issues were worsened by the continuing tech talent problem in Australia, and the impractical cost of either hiring or outsourcing onshore to a fully-local product management, design, and development team.

It was amid this volatile environment that CDN first reached out to Beta Launch.

Building in Stages While Prioritizing Key Functionality, Always Shaped by User Feedback

Beta Launch’s agile approach, comprising core elements such as estimation, iterative building, feedback loops, and objective feature prioritization, perfectly matched where CDN stood with their proof of concept. The iterative way of building allowed us to build the right thing at the right time for CDN, without developing the full software in one go, a method that also suited CDN’s capital access pattern.

The continuous system of feedback ingrained in our development process helped us design small parts of the Takso software or specific areas of its functionality, build them, test on actual users, gain feedback, and fix issues and reshape features accordingly. While in the background to this approach, throughout, assistance was offered with product feature prioritization drawing on agile principles, so that essential features could be built first and those of lower priority only later.

An Incrementally Built Yet Fully Functional Product Ripe for Scaling in the Cultural Sector

Initially, a Beta Launch product manager and programmer were assigned to the task, based out of Melbourne and Colombo respectively. By engaging Beta Launch’s Build-Grow solution, CDN was able to tackle their early problems of moving from the proof of concept to an actual platform and then advance the product progressively.

Close contact was maintained with CDN’s in-house development team and their Executive Officer, using their original code and shifting it onto a platform and upgrading it. Subsequently, we attached one of our design professionals to the job, who worked on fully revamping the design aspects. Parallelly, pilot site customers using the old proof of concept, including the City of Perth and City of Melbourne, were upgraded onto the new platform. Other local government authorities and cultural organizations followed suit.

To redo the very backbone of the existing software and add new features, we went to the iterative building approach described earlier. We built in stages by designing, developing, and testing cyclically. We gained direct feedback from pilot site customers on anything impractical, what worked well, and the functionality that would help them deliver the enhanced cultural outcomes they expected by using Takso. Features were also prioritized accordingly, and tackled in stages and not at once, ensuring at any given time, the product was fully functional, and later updates or iterations would represent functionality optimizations and additions.

This method of building saved time, money and effort for CDN, matching their non-predictable capital access pattern. As and when needs intensified and more capital came through, we helped CDN scale their team, assigning more developers, designers, and testers from our end, scaling up and down when required. * Of note, the engagement between Beta Launch and CDN has been conducted remote from Sri Lanka over the past 14 months, with the Beta team’s strong cultural and attitudinal fit shaping its success.

A Look Inside a Mature Product Enjoying Success in the Cultural Development Sector

Parallel to Beta Launch’s efforts to help scale the Takso product and teams on-demand, CDN’s sales and marketing personnel aggressively pushed its value proposition. The predictable and structured cultural outcomes the product delivers, as a solution to the cultural sector problem of not having a tech framework to plan cultural activities and events while evaluating their success for improved future planning, found immediate success.

15 new pilot site customers have been added since the initial engagement between CDN and Beta Launch in 2019. The success of the product has enabled them to gain further funding, and work is in progress to move up to 25 pilot sites within 2022. This includes adding major institutions such as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra as customers.

As Beta Launch continuously works with CDN on building a program structure for Takso, to facilitate not only single events or activities but entire cultural programs, our Build-Grow and Scale solutions will be used increasingly. The relationship has now blossomed into an impactful partnership between like-minded problem solvers in tech and cultural development within this sector gaining growing importance in Australia.