The Thesis Diaries | Programmatically Building an iOS Application from Scratch | Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

I wear a lot of dresses.

Most of them are the result of me spending an obscene amount of time on online secondhand-shopping apps such as Vinted, Poshmark, Ebay, and Mercari throughout my college career.

I first became hooked on Vinted because it advertised that users could trade clothing if they didn’t feel like spending money. Freshman-year me was strapped for cash but still a shopaholic, and during my first semester of college I both sent and received so many packages that the mail staff knew me by name by the end of the first week. #GoodTimes

There’s a special feeling that comes when you trade clothing with someone. Because there’s no actual money involved, it’s a more accessible form of acquiring a new wardrobe; the only factor is a mutual consensus from all parties involved. You also make instant connections with others through your mutual love of clothing — yeah, that dress is really pretty! I’ll give you this shirt for it.

It got me thinking. Although I’ve made many cool trades on these established platforms, selling for money is still the primary method of transaction. What if there were an app whose main focus was on trading, and trading only?

I couldn’t find one, so I decided to make my own.

Enter Catch, the Tinder for clothes swapping!

What is Catch?

(PIMBDS — Please Ignore My Basic Drawing Skills)

The Thesis Diaries | Programmatically Building an iOS Application from Scratch | Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

The Thesis Diaries | Programmatically Building an iOS Application from Scratch | Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Here’s how it works: Catch is literally a Tinder for clothes. You upload as many of your old clothes as you want. Take good pics, though, because that’s what users will see when they’re swiping in the market. Swiping left if you don’t like an item, aIf you swipe right on an item and that item’s owner swipes right on one of your items, it’s a match and you’ll be able to message them about trading.

The Thesis Diaries | Programmatically Building an iOS Application from Scratch | Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Get it Now!

You can download Catch in the App Store here.

Just kidding! 😛 It hasn’t been developed yet. Catch is the marketplace iOS app I’m building for my senior double thesis in Computer Science and Economics.

The Thesis

There will be two parts to this thesis in order to fulfill requirements for both majors.

I will be developing the app by myself, using Agile methodologies and releasing in two week sprint cycles. That’s fancy software-engineer talk for “I’m going to break down everything I have to do into smaller and smaller tasks (called “tickets”) until they’re manageable, have a reliable way of keeping track of what I need to do/what I’m doing/what I’ve already done, and release a new version of the app every two weeks.”

I’ll also be playing Silicon Valley startup founder/CEO and treating Catch like it’s my company’s product. This means that I’ll be looking for user feedback, iterating and changing the app based on what I hear, coming up with ways to monetize Catch, and building a business model from it. This part is strictly me role-playing for the sake of thesis (and fun) — I don’t plan on actually creating and running a company. I think startups are fascinating, though, and will be spending at least a portion of my time at an actual incubator to really immerse myself in the experience.

Essentially, my two research questions are:

“What is the best way to design and structure the source code for Catch?”


“What is my business model?”.

This thesis will be a practical one rather than a theoretical one, because TBQH I’m super sick of being in school and want to do something fun already, and writing a traditional thesis sounds pretty awful. Instead, I’ll be openly blogging about the process and journey of ideating, finding customers, building a minimum viable product, soliciting feedback, improving based on said feedback, and everything I experience throughout. All the code for Catch will be publicly available on GitHub (this link isn’t a Rickroll, I promise), and anyone is welcome to review it and provide criticism and suggestions.

Openly Talking About My Thesis

There’s a tradition of not talking about your thesis at my school, but screw that. I’ve got no pretenses that I know nearly enough to attempt a project of this scale. If I want to improve as a developer, a businessperson, and a student, I’ll need feedback and advice from others. How will I get that information if I’m keeping everything to myself?

Along the way, I’m expecting tons of pitfalls and pivots and customer complaints. I’m going to post about everything here — expect a Thesis Diaries chapter every week, most likely on Fridays. Feel free to tear my work apart.

In fact, I beg you to do so here. This whole project could totally crash and burn — but if it does, I want both myself and my readers to learn from my mistakes.

I’m not going to take myself too seriously with this project; the ultimate goal is to have fun! At the end of the day, I love programming. I love business strategy. I really love personal development. Why become so attached to the outcome and let my love turn to hate?

A thesis is a labor of love and an exciting opportunity to probe into an area that excites you, not a gigantic impossible task that only exists to cause stress in your life. I hope to spread this mindset by publicizing my thesis work and experience.

Reading List

As of right now, I’m reading Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Laura Klein’s Build Better Products, and Tomer Sharon’s Validating Product Ideas. They’re all practical guides to building a product and finding a consumer base and market fit. I’m trying to stay away from theory as much as possible, unless it directly pertains to one of my research questions.

Interested in helping out?

I’m looking for people to test my app and send me feedback! It’s okay if you don’t have an iPhone — the early stages will only feature prototypes. If you’re interested in being a tester, fill out this form and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.


You can contact me here.

Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie