A huge talking point in the media is how to get more girls interested in technology as a career.
Just this month, in fact, President Obama made a push to get more diversity in tech, Intel touted its diversity numbers and Tesla promoted its female engineers on Twitter with the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer.
— Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) August 12, 2015
The explosion in smartphone and app use, is a universal phenomenon – everyone has been exposed to the wonders of tech. Still, there are far more boys than girls entering the fields of science and technology.
This is why I hope 14 year-old Naomi Benenson’s new social-wishing app wish2wish becomes a smash hit.
There are hundreds of thousands of apps in the world but very few invented by young teen women. Hopefully, Naomi will start a trend – aided in part by intuitive new programming languages for kids like MIT’s Scratch.
In the mean time – here is an interview with Naomi. I hope you find it interesting and share it with people who could become inspired as a result.
Tell me about wish2wish – how did the idea come to you?
I started dancing competitively when I was seven. Every dance was accompanied by a competitive debate: costumes, colors, shoe brands, etc. Frequently, there’d be no real winner, with the majority vote going unnoticed or willfully neglected. I thought the only way to know what the majority of the class wants was to write down our choices, then tally them. But that’s impractical. I knew that there had to be a solution. Luckily, for my 12th birthday I got my first smartphone. I quickly realized that a smartphone would be a perfect device to organize the chaos – turn the usual ballyhoo into a ballot.
I was thinking that any ballot is an expression of a wish. Like voting for a president is a wish for a specific person to become a president. I also realized that “keep fingers crossed” is a common expression of hope, so I thought that it would be natural to use that gesture to show support for one’s wish. The name wish2wish is meant to emphasize that the app is about expressing one’s wishes.
What experiences have led you to this point?
For two years I was visualizing how the app would look and function. When I finally had a clear picture I turned to my uncle, a software engineer, for advice. My uncle reduced the idea to this: “From technical point the app is a location based twitter. A good developer can write it in 6 days time”. I’m still not sure if my uncle was serious or not, but it gave me confidence to proceed. After all, if Twitter can be replicated in less than a week maybe I could create wish2wish in 6 months, fingers crossed.
I was lucky to find an amazing graphics designer and user experience designer on Behance. I emailed hundreds of developers and designers explaining my idea. Majority of people turned me down, I think they did not take me seriously because of my age. However, a few replied and agreed to work with me. It took time to get the team working and communicating. After all, it was a part-time project for everyone on the team. My biggest challenge was learning how to communicate and manage software developers. It turned out that having a spec of the tasks is not enough for cohesive development. I had to be actively involved; asking questions, facilitating communication, and resolving disputes between server and front end developers. In many ways software development parallels a group dance: no matter how talented the dancers are, without a choreographer it won’t ever come together.
Developers were located in several time zones ahead of mine, so when school started I would wake up at 5am to go over the Basecamp comments, Trello tickets, and Skype with each developer, discussing the issues and assessing the progress. Balancing school, dance, and wish2wish was hard. But, at the same time, it was exhilarating to have an extracurricular project where I was making something meaningful (to me, at least) and learning about development and software technology in the process.
What is different about wish2wish than other platforms and social sites?
I looked to Facebook and Twitter for a solution, but liking and retweeting is more an expression of acknowledgment than actual support. Also, a secret ballot is just not possible on those platforms, by design Facebook and Twitter are confined to a narrow “friends/followers” circle. wish2wish app is focusing users’ minds on one basic expression: to make and support a wish. wish2wish is an open forum where anyone can share a wish and look for support. Anyone can start wishing and responding right away without having to worry about followers or privacy. The app is free, open, and simple.
Does it solve a unique problem?
The idea was to create a simple app where people can post their opinion (“Leopard-print leotards, anyone?”) and see how many people support it. This way, arriving to a collective decision is easier and faster. The anonymity of the process would relieve the stress of peer pressure, allowing people to honestly express themselves.
How essential is the location functionality in the app?
wish2wish is a realtime, location based platform. When people open the app, they see the posts made near them. If they wish to see what people around the world are saying, people can zoom out to global levels. The location functionality is crucial to the purpose of the app – showing people what is most relevant to them in their local area.
How do you think it may evolve?
I created wish2wish so people can freely express themselves, learn which wishes represent their views, and through this process support what matters to them. As more people join the wish2wish community, I hope it will gain enough force to change many lives for the better, giving people a platform to facilitate the pace of positive change.
What monetization vehicles do you envision going forward?
The app has two expressions: one for support (Tip of the Hat) and one for disapproval (Wag of the Finger). Within the app, users can purchase Tips/Wags to boost the visibility of a post that matters to them. We hope to communicate to our users that the revenue from Tips/Wags sales will be channelled back to support the wish2wish community by fulfilling selected wishes.
Is there a sponsorship opportunity as well?
The app was created with sponsorship opportunities in mind. It could be used to market new products and provide various incentives to wish2wish users.
What else should potential users and investors know?
The app will become more fun and enjoyable with a larger user base and will thrive to the benefit of its users.
We believe the app has a lot of room to grow in terms of the user base and unique features. With external funding, we would be able to implement a marketing campaign and achieve parabolic user growth.