KAYR drew inspiration from the caremongering movement that grew around the world in light of COVID-19. Here, we saw the creation of hundreds of social media groups where people rallied together, often in the thousands, to offer or request help in their local communities. And when people needed advice, grocery delivery or extra supplies, these groups played an important role in helping those in need. Here's an article from the BBC about the movement, which indeed started in our native Canada: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51915723.
Further, our group has been inspired by the actions & sacrifice of so many essential workers on the frontlines. COVID has revealed many gaps in our systems, but also shown the good in so many people who to want to serve.
There are many who need help with everyday things in these COVID times, whether for childcare, grocery delivery, schooling or more. The caremongering movement shows just how many people are willing to give that help... And indeed, our conversations with dozens of real people & folks in places like universities give us even more inspiration that the solutions KAYR is building have potential to solve real social problems in real communities.
What it Does:
KAYR provides a platform to enhance community connection, by encouraging social connection and in particular helping to connect those who want to help with those in need. It provides a user interface that is much cleaner than Facebook threads or social media, allowing for users to easily post when they want to offer help or need a hand, filter across these posts & communicate with those that may be a match.
And there's another unique element to this platform, inspired by Blockchain technologies: a Karma system.
Here, we create a community where everyone who joins is rewarded with a certain amount of Karma (1,000 points). Karma can then be shared with other users who help you, thus allowing one to accumulate Karma points... Think of it like XP (Experience Points) in modern games. And with many points, you can move to different Karma Levels. And with new levels, one can unlock new rewards, such as store discounts or coupons. For example, we are already in touch wiht certian university partners to pilot KAYR, and they are looking to secure rewards like discounts to a university bookstore, tickets to sporting events, a credit on tuition & other very valuable prizes.
And why is this system important? Because of the dozens of people we interviewed, 77% of those who needed help said that it was important for them to recognize or reciprocate an act of kindness, even if not in traditional means. Karma offers a way that people to show appreciation & create a more caring, unified community.
How I Built It:
I did not build it. The team did.
Each of us had particular roles in the project, with my role being more on the project management & ideation side. For me therefore, it was really important to do market research, with my reaching out to dozens of people across 30+ different caremongering movements in the country. From here, our two tech specialists worked together on the front-end and back-end sides, building out the posting environment on the one end, and screenshots plus a landing page via Wix on the other. For the back-end, a variety of programming languages were used, and in operation, the systems created mimic the blockchain, especially in the delivery of Karma points, which indeed is similar to crypto-currency, except operated with a different set of rules designed to maximize social (and not just economic) impact.
Finally, we had a video specialist on the team whose job it was to articular what we do, and showcase the work our team did so far (120K+ lines of code!!), plus all the potential we see for this concept in the future.
This is just one step in what we envision will be a long journey as we build KAYR out!
Challenges I Ran Into:
The greatest challenge for me is that I am not a technology specialist (more on the business side). And hence, the early part of this journey was centered on recruiting teammates to carry this project forward. This proved to be an exhilarating journey, although we did have some issues: One teammate we initially recruited had to drop out due to his school getting in the way. Others also found it difficult to make time in the middle of other commitments. Being honest, there are times we also had debates on vision or direction, although this only made the concept stronger.
And yet, we had a team that often worked till 2-3 AM to get things done, sacrificing many a night of sleep. Although there are always challenges for getting together as a team amist COVID, I'm proud of what we pulled off.
Accomplishments that I'm Proud Of:
This team. Truly, we found a team that complemented each other exceptionally: Each being a specialist in key project tasks. And really, everything else I am proud of is because of this team: The five-minute video we've developed is the brainchild of animator Mai Tran, the 120+ lines of code is thanks to the work of CTO Tara Mathers. The front-end designs you see is those of Deanna Castano. And beyond that, we're thankful for so much advice given throughout our journey, and particularly from Nikheel Premsagar of the Government of BC, who provided us great insights into maintaining the safety of our platform. Plus we also have to give credit to mentors like Chirine, who guided us through this whole journey, especially in ensuring that what we were building could be a fit for Finastra.
When you have a team like this, you can accomplish anything!
And here's one more great thing: All the members of our team have shared that they want to stay involved in the project, with Deanna & Mai offering their time/ services for when we may need them in the future. Tara has gone further, and is now helping to develop this full-time, a huge coup given her own 12+ years' experience as a senior back-end developer at places like Samsung & IBM. With a technical founder like her on board, and the ability to now build/ modify our product for three REAL clients, we are excited to see where this concept can go.
And to that end, our having three Canadian universities on board to pilot KAYR in Winter 2021 is huge. Together, these insitutions represent 25K+ students, and the student bodies there have been incredible helpful in giving us insights for what they need, and what specifically we will need to build out. Indeed, these early clients are also on our team, as they are co-designers in this project. Building something that can address real needs for these three real institutions will not just help them, but create a solution that is more likely to scale to universities globally.
What I Learned:
Humility. This journey was touching for me, as I saw people willing to invest hundreds of hours of their time to make this vision happen. I am eternally grateful to my team. Truthfully, I was not always the easiest person to work with, often demanding, often confusing. But they stuck with it, and we're excited for what we created.
And another thing... We're proud at a personal level for honing new skills in this hackathon that we had not tried much before. Our back-ender Tara built user accounts for the first time. Our front-ender Deanna learned how to use Wix and expressed learning lots about teamwork as well. Our video creator Mai was excited to teach herself a few new animation hacks. And I learned most about communication as a leader & how important it is to listen.
Very early in this hackathon, our team established the importance of giving it our all, learning & having fun in the process! And, while the journey is just beginning, we do believe that we did just that :).
What's Next for KAYR:
Our Winter 2021 pilots... And my, are they scary!
There's honestly a TON we need to do, with Tara & I building out a lot over the next month through Christmas to get ourselves ready for the many hundreds/ thousands of students who may soon be using our platform. So far, we're proud of a strong starting framework, but have an aggressive technical development timeline.
Just some of the many things on our agenda:
1) Building out the Karma point systems to also reward students who engage in student societies/ events 2) Creating a feature for private internal groups, to represent student departments or residences 3) Finalizing integrations with payment platforms like Finastra, which at present are not fully built out 5) Exploring viability for a mobile app beyond the current web platform, likely for Spring 2021 6) Doing vulnerability checks on our infrastructure to ensure security is maintained is top-of-mind as we scale
We anticipate that the university market represents a $2.4B opportunity in Canada also, and there is scaling potential in other verticals as well. With a unique product at the intersect of financial technology, community development and social networking, we believe that KAYR is at the cusp of a massive opportunity.