Nice Idea, Mate

Collective

Issue 6/January 2014


When two men become mates over beer, an app to improve people’s mental health emerges. They let us in on the journey from concept to reality, writes Tatyana Leonov.

A WINNING IDEA

Everyone wants to make the world a better place and so many people have great ideas on how. But very few actually take the initiative and turn their inkling into something substantial.

It takes time, passion, work and, in most cases, money — not something the majority of people have the will or funds to do. But in Andrew Ward and Matt Noffs’ case, this wasn’t so.

“We got friendly at daddy day care,” laughs Wardy, as he is affectingly known, of 3 Minute Angels (corporate and event massage providers) fame. He and Matt from the Ted Noffs Foundation and Street University (both helping youth at risk). Meeting up after hours, a few pints of beer turned a clever idea into a social entrepreneurship project and My Lincoln Letters was born.

THE INSPIRATION

Former president Abraham Lincoln is known as the laid-back president — someone who rarely got angry, kept his composure and went on to great things, in part due to his relaxed approach to life. Years after his death a bunch (and we’re talking a big bunch) of letters were found. This was his version of venting — thoughts and ideas he recorded, sealed and kept secure. Lincoln, it would seem, had found a healthy, safe and non-hurtful way to speak his mind.

“I remember telling Wardy there should be an app that would hold fire on angry emails,” says Matt, to which Wardy responded, “Better still, we should make the app and make it so that these emails are actually sent out to the person in question — in 150 years.”

So if you feel the rage begin to lap at your resolve, just stop, breathe and channel the top-hatted gentleman himself. You can text, email or even yell (record a voice memo), safe in the knowledge that it will be kept private for 150 years to come.

When the clock ticks at the appropriate time, the ‘letters’ will be made public on mylincolnletters.com.

“All this assumes standard technology then looks as it does now. So we built a pretty basic system in the hope the basics don’t change much. We don’t even have a way of decrypting the files until 2163.”

THE IMPACT

My Lincoln Letters has one purpose: to help people vent in a healthy way. After all, everyone vents, so why not do it in a way that doesn’t hurt you, your reputation, your brand, your business or worse... others?

It has the support of health experts including Dr Tim Sharp, also known as Dr Happy, who says: “Venting anger and distress in an unhealthy way doesn’t help anyone, and can often create more anger and distress. What My Lincoln Letters is trying to do is help people express their emotions in an appropriate way, so it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

MAKING IT HAPPEN

The morning after the idea for My Lincoln Letters was born, Wardy posted a crowdfunding proposal online.

“We approached 300 organisations that were somehow linked to mental health; finding them through Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as seeking out publically available support or mental health groups,” explains Wardy.

Out of the 300 businesses approached, 20 chipped in and they raised AU$3500.

And while they needed it, neither Wardy nor Matt seem to care so much about the money.

“It’s artistic for us,” Matt explains. “Most people want to make money, but this app is about doing something that we think is cool. We do other things to make money!”

They spoke with two experts about costs and build options and found a company to build the app, only to realise that that was just half the product.

“Once someone sends a post from the app it has to sit somewhere for 150 years — that costs money,” Wardy explains. “And we choose to use Google because there is just no guarantee any other company will be around in 150 years!

“The average app is downloaded 6000 times, so if we get 6000 downloads and people like venting, if there are enough people that like using it more than 10 times (after 10 uses customers are asked to pay AU$15 for 150 years in advance, which works out to be 10 cents a year for storage), they will probably pay to keep their account going,” Wardy explains.

“And if they choose not to, they won’t lose their account.”

THE FUTURE

“Who knows, in 150 years this might be a juicy gossip website,” Wardy laughs. “But right now, people need to vent!”