The concept is simple; everyone gets a daily act of kindness, they try to do it, then they get to share their experience with others. The DoGood app (for iPhone and later Android) was launched the summer of ’09 by Jason Bornhorst and a cohort of University of Michigan engineers (Go Blue!). Within eight months, over half-a-million new good deeds had impacted our world.
Another company, Tonic Inc., lined up to buy DoGood. They were quoted with intentions of “making it a massive worldwide movement.” It sounds like a great idea and a simple app. So where is it? How come when we google “dogood app” or search on the App Store, we’re not able to download it?
People often think of comparisons for FoodCircles, to relate it to something they already know. We’ve heard the gamut; “A ‘Buy One/Give One’ like TOMS, but for food”, to “Groupon with a conscience,” etc. Many TOMS-type companies revolve around selling a product with good as the byproduct. Rather, we hope that people come to see us as aligned with the DoGood mission instead; helping people feel, consider, and do good through everyday actions.
As we came to align with what DoGood started, but seemingly never finished, we became more and more curious to find out what happened. We recently sat down with the founder Jason Bornhorst and got the scoop.
JK: Thanks for agreeing to chat with us, Jason– I’ll get right to it. Why does DoGood no longer exist, and what did Tonic do with it?
JB: Essentially (and unfortunately), Tonic mismanaged it into nothing. They were a startup as well actually, just like us but a bit bigger, and just ran out of capital. It didn’t cost much at all to maintain, perhaps just a community moderator, but they couldn’t manage that I guess, and they own the code.
JK: Do you regret selling DoGood?
JB: You know part of me does, but the thing is, it actually made sense at the time. It’s rare to start something and sell in 8mos. It was great for the Michigan tech scene, the university, and it led to my next few opportunities personally, even though the app ended up dying in the end.
JK: I find it interesting that this wasn’t something that “started” in Ann Arbor and grew nationally eventually, but got on NYT, CNN, and CNET pretty much immediately. Besides the developers who coded DoGood, what did your biz dev/marketing team look like?
JB: To be honest, we just got really lucky. We had two developers and a designer, managed just to get a lot of national press, and just had a really good product/market fit, I guess. Who was our market? I never really knew. People tend to share things that make them look good, you know. We never really knew enough to understand our “key demographic”. We kept it simple and tried to make a daily habit out it: Use this app once a day. Share this and let others see your experience. Everyone gets the same act everyday, do it, then tell us how it went.
JK: Any final advice for us or for other organizations trying to reach a million users?
JB: Sure. Here’s some thoughts;
– First, 3 basic tenets; stay focused, write code, get users.
– Second, find great advisors in your space; it’s really important.
– Third, help your users look good as much as you can (get exclusive drink sleeves for “BOFO” diners at restaurants, other swag, etc.)
– Lastly, get specific on the actual good you’re accomplishing (for you guys, share more about the actual meal the kids are getting)