OhLife’s Daily E-Mails Motivate a New Wave of Online Diarists
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the Business 2.0 article, but quickly shut it down, assigning Gupta and Child to spin up a related product called moneyStrands (which is still around today). The pair left Strands after about six months.
Their next startup idea, and the one that got them into Y Combinator the first time, was ididwork.com. It was a bid to fix annual performance reviews—a ritual despised by both supervisors and supervisees. “The idea was, people on a team would keep a work log, and when they did something they’d just log that,” says Gupta. “The manager would periodically review the log and give you continuous feedback, rather than waiting a full year.”
After about nine months of work, Child and Gupta found that they were having trouble selling their system, mainly because annual reviews are, well, annual—meaning the pain they cause is more acute than chronic. “It’s such a seldom-faced problem; the second it’s over, you say ‘Thank God, it’s another year until I have to think about that again,'” says Gupta.
But the pair observed something interesting: customers who bought ididwork.com weren’t using it in the way it had been designed, as a substitute for annual reviews. Instead, they were using it as a way to keep their colleagues up to date, as a substitute for meetings of all sorts.
That led to a classic startup pivot. “The product shifted completely and we launched something new called MeetingMix,” says Gupta. “The premise was that we’d give you a wiki page for all of your meetings. You could send a link to this page to every attendee so they could suggest agenda topics and add action items, all on one page, and then document the meeting and all the key decisions.”
But MeetingMix, too, got into a fix, with little uptake from users. “There was adisconnect,” says Gupta. “Everyone would say ‘If meetings actually did that, it would be awesome.’ The problem is that creating an agenda takes extra work, which offsets any benefits accrued.” MeetingMix is still online today (as is ididwork.com), but most of its remaining users are “diehard people” with a specific interest in the art of running productive meetings.
So Child and Gupta set off in search of a new problem to solve. At this point, they’d been through a lot—three product launches in less than four years. “A lot of stuff has happened, and I’m afraid I’m not going to remember all of it,” says Child. But he wasn’t much good at writing it down. “I have a stack of Moleskines in my closet where literally, the first 10 pages have stuff, and then it dies out.” Gupta, too, says he’s tried to keep a regular journal, but that he was always more of a “serial attempter” than a serious diarist.
From their previous ventures, Child and Gupta had learned how difficult it can be to get users to adopt new behaviors. But everyone already uses e-mail, and the pair eventually hit on the idea of using it to help would-be journalers jumpstart their daily writing practice. “This notion of applying it through e-mail made the whole idea of keeping a journal make sense,” says Child. “There are no new habits or anything like that.”
OhLife debuted in August, and by the time I first met with Child and Gupta in early September, the service was already home to over 100,000 entries. They think the fast early adoption is partly the result of the fact that OhLife entries are meant to be … Next Page »
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