As a seasoned video producer, family documentarian and genealogist, I've captured many magic moments on video, where a person shared a story their family had never heard, or a once-in-a-lifetime conversation was preserved before someone passed away. Those touched and changed me, and I kept looking for ways to bring these opportunities to more families in an affordable, instantly accessible and video-centered way. When technology came to the right point, I found a team of contractors to help me fulfill that vision, and over 1.5 years we created the SimplyTold app, powered by The Digital Mosaic website. Together they are a powerful video storytelling hub, enabling groups to tell their collective stories, sharing those stories in a private environment and preserving those family stories for generations. Every time I see or hear about a magic moment captured by SimplyTold that wouldn't have been preserved otherwise, I know I'm on the right path.

What it does

The iPad and iPhone app provides 400+ life story and values questions, with a customizable question option. Users record their own or someone else's stories, one question at a time, instantly uploading the videos to their private web page on Additional participants can be invited to view stories, or record their own to the group. Video pages can be shared publicly if the group chooses, but privacy is assured with password-protected content.

How I built it

I had created a rough flow of how I wanted the app and website to work, and had developed some content before teaming up with a website developer and two app developers. We then collaborated to figure out what functionality would be possible, and decided on the path that technology and our resources would support to fulfill my vision of the service. We launched an iPad beta on iTunes with TestFlight, and worked through the issues to get to our current version, then created an iPhone version of that, which is now in beta with TestFlight.

Challenges I ran into

As a creative with a technology bent, I had to really trust my team to guide me on how we could execute my vision in different ways at times then I'd planned. We've had a lot of website issues that took more time to fix and modify than I would have thought (rookie right!), and as the app finally came out, we were in competition with businesses that had much deeper teams and pockets, so it's always been about how to be more open-minded and innovative with what we were going to deliver in functionality and the collaborative aspect of the service.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Being a witness to some of those magic moments I mentioned earlier has been amazingly gratifying. The organizations, facility and families who love what I've created, and tell me about how they plan to use it, or have already started using it really is worth it all.

What I learned

In creating a tech product and relying upon a team of creators, it will always take a lot longer to create a tested, proven product than you think. Getting something working out there to get input from users is so vital to creating a better product. Even when you don't like what you're hearing, recognize that it's vital to your product's success and listen from a different perspective. In selling to organizations expect a much longer sales cycle than you ever put into a business plan. Don't be afraid to say you don't know the answer or ask for help.

What's next for SimplyTold iOS App

We're gathering input from our beta users on the iPhone app, and are considering a different approach for how to offer our consumer product. As soon as the iPhone app is at the next phase, we hope to get it approved for distribution through iTunes. Depending on the consumer welcome, we'll either go to an Android version, or revisit the iOS model. We're beginning to sell in a few key business-to-business areas, so will do what can to strengthen the app to better serve those markets, which will enhance the consumer market as well. We hope to partner with key organizations who serve our customers and provide our services through larger networks.

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