It happened in a phone call. My cofounder, Adam, was in Melbourne, and I was in Los Angeles. For the umpteenth time, we were throwing around ideas for an app that would be a new way of doing recommendations, one that would cut through the online circus and help people see straight to the advice that was most relevant and useful to them.
It wasn’t our first conversation, and we were getting nowhere. And then in frustration, one of us said: ‘You know what? I don’t care about all this other stuff. I just want to know what my friends have to say!’
There was silence for a moment. The silence of two light bulbs going on.
We’d got the question wrong. We were asking ‘What recommendations should we show?’ Instead, we should have been asking ‘Who should they come from?’
I’d recently been on a holiday to a resort that was (to put it kindly) less than extraordinary. I’d done my Tripadvisor research, asked a couple of friends I happened to see, and still ended up in this place. And then a week after I got back, I’m telling the story to a friend, and he says: ‘You should have asked me. I could have told you about a great place I know.’
Ahhhh! Where were you when I needed you?
And how many other times had there been? Advice that came a moment too late. And sometimes, advice that came just in time.
After that, I started to listen. Every time I was with friends for coffee, a drink, dinner. Sooner or later – usually sooner – someone would ask if anyone knew about some particular thing – something they were thinking of seeing, or doing, or buying – or they wanted to tell people about something they’d done. Before you knew it, one recommendation led to another. ‘I don’t know about that, but have you heard about this …?’ If you counted, you’d hear five, ten, fifteen recommendations being exchanged
Adam and I had more calls. This, we decided, was what teepee would be.
Questions you have or recommendations you want to share with your friends. Conversations between people who know and trust each other about things they really need to find out
A private place where you can post about a particular recommendation with as many or as few friends as you choose. Where there are no dubious suggestions and lists of trending topics that some algorithm has decided you’ll be interested in.
Over the next few months, that led us to an intuitive design. On teepee, you Ask or Tell. You select the friends (we call it your team) to send your post to. We remember your team for each category of post that you send, but you can change it easily and quickly each time. You can choose to let your team share your question or recommendation with other friends, or not. And as your friends reply and the conversation develops, you can save any post into collections of the recommendations you want to keep.
It’s simple. Adam and I wondered if it was too simple. We tried adding things, jazzing it up, but everything else seemed like distraction, and we kept coming back to the basics. Ask, Tell, Save. Share. In the end, we decided, maybe it’s the simplest things that make a difference.
With teepee, we’re not trying to change the world – we just want people to get more out of it. It was at that moment during that phone call, when we realised we had been asking the wrong question, that we figured out how.
teepee is free to download
and we’ve made sure you can send questions and recommendations to your friends
even if they ‘re not on teepee yet!