March 10, 2014
Call me A.
I’m about to tell you several stories within a story.
It’s March 10, 2014, Austin, Texas, SXSW, and I’m Airbnbing for the first time with a guy I barely know. His name is Jeff Stewart and he’s a professional writer. Arms entirely inked, avid dog-and-metal aficionado, amazingly talented author, the guy’s aura radiates pure passionate artistry, archetypally. He’s attending SXSW to promote a new book, I’m there to promote a new app. We drive to the convention center and make our way into throngs of technothusiasts. I’m somewhat sufficiently prepared, with a technology to demo and some cards to share. Jeff, meanwhile (wherein virtually everyone around us clings fiendishly to some supposedly state-of-the-art apparatus), is hauling a sack of book copies. We start networking with people. I get lost in the crowd. Then, a few minutes later, he finds me.
“Let’s have a drink. Stop what you’re doing. I just had an idea I know you’ll love.”
I’m down. “All right. Let’s do this.” We exit the building. “So what’s the idea?”
“The entire social media experience – but the media content isn’t focused on updates, or on messages, or on images, or on videos, or on songs…”
“…then on what?”
“Writing. The entire spectrum of writing. All kinds, all sizes, all skills.”
Suddenly my mind is taken back to the fourth grade, when I became obsessively passionate about, or passionately obsessed with, writing, and started writing poems and stories and novels nonstop for several years. Then puberty hit and, for me, made writing uncool and thus undesirable, so I fell out of touch with it until graduating from high school. Early in college, this rekindling led to founding a publishing company. My first taste of business and entrepreneurship then led me away, yet again, from my own deep, immense passion for writing and words. It had led me away for six long years. And now the spirit of writing was tickling my soul again.
Next thing I know we are sitting in the Omni, sipping whiskey coke and eating chicken wings, talking about what Jeff is now calling “Prose.” We lose track of time. The conversation continues for hours and hours, until we realize that it’s 2am, we’re being loud despite trying to contain the excitricity, and our Airbnb host is probably disgruntled for that precise reason.
I get back to Seattle from Austin and share Jeff’s idea of Prose with the board of my company, Arc Reactor, which specializes in growing technology ideas. We decide to build Prose and add it to our portfolio. We also decide to make Prose look and feel like a game, in subtle ways, through writing challenges and author leaderboards and the like.
We launch our iOS app in September of 2014, and then our web app (theprose.com) in January. Several months later, our community is divided and frustrated, as an influx of middle schoolers have discovered Prose and spread the word(s) across campus. So we introduce Partners, Spotlight, and Portals to ensure better, more personalized and relevant content.
Then, in December of 2015, we decide to experiment with a “$100 Challenge of the Week.” The experiment proves to be a success, informing us that we need to make Prose even more gamelike and rewarding. So we introduce Books, Coins, and Juice to let writers make money from their craft via purchases and donations for any kind or size of writing, from a haiku to a chapter to a saga.
Now it’s February of 2017. We keep eliminating bugs in our code and polishing the Prose experience. We are focused on leveraging all this code that Z has written so we can share Prose with existing, relevant communities – such as writing sites, publishing houses, literary agencies, college classrooms, prison inmates, writers clubs, book clubs.
Our mission is to help humanity live its intellectual and creative potential by constantly making the written word experience more social, fun, and rewarding.
Thank you for reading and sharing this story. I hope to read and share yours.