Journaling app writr asks the tough questions

People have been keeping journals for thousands of years. It is well-known that the act of writing has a healing and therapeutic effect to it – science describes it as a cathartic release that occurs when emotions are translated to words – but when the internet came along, people put down their pens and picked up emojis.

It’s as if technology has made people stop expressing their feelings in coherent sentences. We now use LOL,  OMG and 🙂 😐  to express how we feel. It’s almost like caveman evolution played in reverse.

One company that wants to use technology to help people get back to writing is Hamilton-based startup writr, which has developed a journaling application that allows people to reflect and self-analyse key areas of focus in their lives with the help of thought-provoking questions.

writr’s primary purpose is to enable people to reflect for personal growth,” says CEO Vivek Sharma.

writr has a database of thought-provoking questions created with help of subject matter experts. Every time people launch writr, they are prompted with questions in random order until 30 questions have been answered.

 These questions allow people to reflect on 7 key areas of focus in their lives – body, career, finance, relationships, path, spirituality, and time. writr uses an algorithm to analyse the first 30 questions answered by people. Based on the analysis, writr tailors the questions for individuals for them to reflect on all areas.

It’s a brilliant idea, but Vivek says that when creating the company, he focussed on assembling a good team, not on cultivating the concept. 

“It started with a motivation of putting a passionate team together after I came back from a Startup Weekend in May 2103,” Vivek explains. “The focus was more on finding the right people than the product. I believe that [the] right people will succeed or fail early, learn, and move forward a lot quicker to develop better and more successful products.”

Vivek keeps a journal himself, and that became the product’s starting point. The entrepreneur had focused on coaching and development of individuals in his previous management and leadership roles, and decided to make a beautiful journaling app for the unserved Windows market. 

It is worth noting that, although Windows has 91.35% market share in desktop computing, there are comparably far fewer native apps developed for the platform than for the Apple operating system.

“We looked at the most popular journaling applications and found that most of them offer a beautiful interface to motivate people to capture memories and aggregate information from various social media platforms,” says Vivek Sharma. 

“We also discovered that people found it difficult to write on blank canvas all the time and often lost interest after writing their daily activities. We investigated journaling and its core purpose, which is reflection for personal growth. We then came up with a concept of writr. 

“It was designed for Windows as an MVP to validate our model. The goal is to develop an anonymous community where people can reflect socially and learn from each other. The focus is on learning and development.”

The app has seen approximately 5,000 users sign up to it since the beta launch in 2014. Vivek says that the concept has been well-received, as is evident in writr’s ratings and customer feedback

The Windows platform has served to effectively validate the idea, and the company has recently finalised their product roadmap, which includes launching an Android and web version in the future. Vivek didn’t say whether a native iOS or OS X version of writr was in the plans.

Either way, writr is attracting users on Windows 8, which is one of the most challenging platforms for app usage.

“[The first step to getting users is having a good understanding of your target market and the channels they use,” Vivek says. “The channels enable you to find key influencers who will then help you get to your early adopters. They’ll become your beta testers and will help you to get to the early majors. You can find beta testers through various other sources such as BetaLi.st, StartupLi.st and EarliBird.com. This is another great way to get users.”

Share your authentic compelling purpose and story with your users. Give them an opportunity and a simple way to connect with you through your website, social media, and product. Simon Sinek has wonderfully articulated this in his video – Start with why?. I strongly urge that you follow the guidelines and incorporate them in your marketing plan.

Vivek says that he also thinks press releases are a must for promoting apps, because they get influencers talking about your product . There are big players such as The Verge, PC Mag, WPCentral, and Engadget, and then there are smaller players too. 

“You need to connect with both of them,” Vivek advises. “In our case, WPCentral‘s review of our full release has been extremely crucial, because there is synergy since Windows 8.1 is target market for both of us.”

Despite the rapid uptake in users, writr has also experienced its fair share of difficulties in the way of a lack of entrepreneurial experience and international exposure. 

It was three of us to begin with. We used our network to address the missing capabilities and bring two additional members on board on a part-time basis to do research, social media, and develop writr,” says Vivek.

“Gaining exposure continues to be a challenge because it is never enough,” he continues. “We had a lot of rejections at the beginning. Perseverance is the key. We continued to look for people who shared our vision and purpose. We used our network to connect with key influencers. We continue to work on our communication to make it more effective. This enabled us to get media releases and featured in Windows store.”

If there is one thing that I would like to recommend,” Vivek says, “is that you find key influencers as soon as you start working on your product. Share your purpose and vision. Bring them along on your journey and find opportunities to collaborate. Credit them for their contribution.”

You can download writr for Windows 8.1 here.

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