The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.
Interview with Bryony Schwan, the creator of the app, Kindkudos.
1. Tell us a little bit about your app, Kindkudos.
I think everyone has experienced how good it feels to get a card, letter or voicemail from a friend or relative expressing how much she appreciates you. I’ve met so many people who even have voicemails from loved ones who have passed away and they are terrified of losing them. With Kindkudos you don’t have to worry about losing those precious messages. You can keep your kudos with you forever and listen to or read them anytime you want to feel good or just remember someone special. Aside from archiving these keepsakes the app is designed to help you reach out and make others happy too by sending them kind voice, video or text messages. And, you can attach photos too! Unlike other social media sites your messages are private and thus more meaningful and authentic. The app also has a kindness-tracking feature. So if you send a kudo to a friend and she then “pays it forward” by sending another kudo to her friend and so on, you can see on an interactive map how many times, and how far, your kindness has spread. The iPhone version of the app was released in the App Store this spring and the Android version is coming later this summer.
2. What was your inspiration for creating the app?
Like so many people my sister, who lives in England, feels socially isolated. I wondered how could I create a tool for her to know that she is loved and appreciated when I couldn’t be there for her? And, not just her, but the millions of people who feel increasingly socially isolated in our fast-paced world. At about the same time, I became interested in the “science of happiness” and have subsequently taken courses in the field and read numerous books and articles.
I learned that the United States, while one of the wealthiest countries in the world and a leader of so many trends, ranks only 17 out of 156 countries in the World Happiness Report (World U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network). In fact, research shows that while people need some level of financial security, increased wealth does not necessarily correlate with increased levels of happiness. Social connection, however, is fundamental to human happiness. People are social animals and we need to feel connected to a group, whether that is our immediate family, friends or a larger community. We need to know that we matter to someone. I started asking people how they knew they were loved and appreciated? From these conversations I learned that, like me, so many people stored notes and cards in a shoebox or desk drawer and went to great lengths to keep voice messages on their phones. That gave me the idea for an app that could both archive these messages all in one easily accessible place…like keeping a little love in your pocket and make it easy for people to send kudos.
My hope is that Kindkudos will spread kindness and gratitude and help people feel more connected and happier. If Kindkudos can help remind us that true happiness lies in meaningful connection to family, friends and community and not in the pursuit of material wealth, then perhaps it will do a small part in helping us build a more sustainable world for future generations.
3. Tell us about a total biz fail?
I don’t know that I have a biz fail per se but I will tell you that the app market is a highly competitive and very tough market (especially for a middle-aged woman living in Montana). While I have started and successfully built several organizations, this is probably the most challenging thing I have ever done. It is very difficult to raise capital and find good developers in Montana but I feel lucky to have highly talented developers and some angel investors who believed in my vision. It is also hard because there are so few mentors in this space in Montana and I’ve had to learn so much by reading and taking courses online. I’ve had to immerse myself in the startup literature, the rapidly changing tech world and the field of positive psychology.
4. Share with us a total win (brag away!)
It’s too early stage to have a “total win” since the iPhone version of the app has only been out about three months so far, but the biggest win for me is when I hear stories from our users about how much getting a kudo made their day. Many people have said they were having a tough time and a friend sent a kudo and it completely turned their day around and lifted their spirits. That is exactly the effect this app is meant to have. Another big win for me was having a very experienced app developer tell me he thought Kindkudos was a really beautiful and well-designed app. There are a lot of poorly designed apps on the market and we have worked hard to create a really lovely user experience and there’s more to come. We are developing new features that promise to enhance that user experience even more.
5. What's your relationship with Mamalode?
Well I am probably one of the many people who are not a parent but still enjoy the magazine. I think it is beautifully produced and so many of the stories are moving and authentic. The high caliber of journalism is not really surprising when you see the people behind the magazine. I know several of partners and staff and they are intelligent, talented and committed.