It does not happen often that STEP Journal team gets hold of Daniel and Jay – the founders of the STEP Journal, yet on one of those few days (a breezy autumn afternoon in Sunnyvale, CA) we sat down for a cosy chat intending to get our company story on paper. No, not on paper… in HTML, actually…
Q: People frequently ask if STEP Journal is counting physical steps?
Jay: there’s an old Oriental proverb – “A journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step”. We took step as an allegory representing moments in day, whereas 1000 miles stand for the life. Eventually, when we connect more services, STEP Journal will also include your Steps, however at the moment it’s a visual app for logging & tracking daily life moments.
Q: How did you come up with an idea of a visual lifelogging app?
Daniel: right after graduation I landed in international management consultancy. 7 months after joining the company I started wondering if I am normal – my friends were enjoying dinners, having fun, but I was working from Monday to Sunday, late into the nights, drank too much coffee to stay agile, smoked too many cigarettes. I had a feeling of ruining my life. Of course, work was interesting and rich in terms of challenges and experiences, yet I couldn’t help wondering if I’m normal and how other people live. So I started recording my life and sharing with others via Twitter and Facebook. Through tedious recording of daily activities I was able to fully understand myself and my life. Yet keeping a track was very uncomfortable so I came up with the idea of easier recording…
Jay: … and I liked Daniel’s idea. As we worked together, we both knew that only if input is correct, insights can be valuable. Rubbish in, rubbish out as the saying goes. So we felt that if we find a way to simplify recording of daily life moments, it will lead to a better self understanding and help people change for better. Furthermore, screen of smartphone is too small and thus inconvenient for typing in long paragraphs. We wanted to create something easy to use and ‘super cool’ to store and mange the life instantly.
And how does STEP Journal empower people to change?
Jay: by allowing people to instantly record daily moments and learn interesting things about themselves via quantification and visualisation of patterns. These days we spend 24hrs with smartphone in hand, looking at the screen hundred times a day – thus we thought of a mobile app. The key to enable busy people keep a track of their days was to find a way to avoid textual input, thus we came up with an intuitive input method – activity icons. STEP Journal is quite smart as it suggests activities based on time of day, previous activities and other parameters. And so beta version was released in May 2013.
Daniel:… and in November we released a completely redesigned version of STEP Journal which includes advanced personal dashboard – a tool to choose which activities to quantify and visualise.
Words “personal, private” are frequent in the description of STEP. On the other hand it also has social features like sharing entry on social media. So, what is private and what is social?
Daniel: while using social services we tend to think of feedback, likes and social status – all of that might influence our level of sincerity. Yet our daily lives are composed of many routine moments which are not worth of social attention, especially if these moments are negative (smoking, for example). STEP Journal by default has no social exposure, so I can be sincere with myself. Of course, if I record an extraordinary moment, I can post it to social networks from STEP Journal, but it’s my choice, not a default setting.
Jay: many people – mentors, VCs, consultants – recommended us to add functionality of sharing data with other STEP users. No secret that social services are generating value from exposing users, yet STEP Journal is private. Delivering on the promise of privacy is our ethos.
What’s the value of recording insignificant moments of daily life?
Daniel: people are becoming more conscious about healthy lifestyle and want to change for better, yet understanding of daily life patterns is a prerequisite for change. Our lives are scattered in notes, calendars, social media and by having them so scattered we cannot keep a track of life. STEP Journal allows for import of events from calendar, import of posts from Facebook and few other most popular services – thus creating a good base for the user to get a sense of his or her life. Other activities can be logged using icon-based interface. It’s super easy – click-click-click and done.
Jay: in the near future we will also allow to import data from wearable devices and activity trackers, thus allowing for even greater level of daily life aggregation.
How do you see the future of lifelogging?
Daniel: more than 100 million people is USA are actively recording and tracking their life, while worldwide this number could be ~300 million. Tracking fitness, distances, steps, sleep, calories – people are very eager to understand themselves via quantification. When it comes to wearable computing, the market is expected to reach 19 billion USD by 2018. It’s a huge blue ocean software wise. We believe that STEP Journal has a lot of potential to grow with these trends.
What can people expect in the next next version of STEP Journal?
Jay: we’ve heard from people they’d love to have some complementary way of saving the Steps, so we are considering introducing export feature. In the near future – once we also provide a web version – we will support export of data to .xls and other popular formats.
Daniel: continuous improvement of algorithm for activity suggestion, more functionality in the dashboard, more personalization – it’s all in our to do list.
At the moment the application is free and there are no in-app purchases. How do you plan to generate revenue?
Daniel: app will always be free. Later we plan to focus on premium life improvement services (personalised lifestyle tips, insights, coaching) and these will be paid.
What’s your personal favourite characteristic of STEP Journal?
Daniel: Icons. I love coffee icon. Farewell icon (a kiss) is also very cute
Jay: I am not a big fan of social services, am not really opening my life to others that much. I think generally these days many people including me feel fatigue from overexposure of personal life on socials. I really love that once I enter something in STEP Journal, I don’t have to worry about getting exposed to the world. I enjoy being able to dump my “ordinary yet meaningful to me” moments without any concerns.
In what way did STEP Journal change your life?
Daniel: I started using the new version thinking that maybe I drink too much instant coffee. So I began logging it. Recording certain behaviour reminds me of the purpose. Today, after two months my dashboard has zeros under instant coffee – I managed to quit it.
Jay: I had some concerns about my health. You know, startup is a hard job, sometimes late at night, yet I want to keep myself healthy and inspire the team to be healthy. With STEP I’ve managed to minimise midnight snacks and ensure I do work out at least 30 minutes every day.