Although the seatbelt was first invented in the mid 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that a lap belt became commonplace in automobiles, and it was even later when the shoulder strap was added. Finally in 1970, the world’s first seat belt law was put into place (in Australia).
Unfortunately it seems that the problem of distracted driving is taking a similarly long time to solve. Laws are falling into place and solutions have been invented, but it is not a problem that can be solved overnight. Over time, though, awareness is growing, and solutions like TextNinja are getting closer and closer to a widespread adoption that can change the social trends associated with texting and driving.
So, how is a unique blend of passionate people turning a blatant problem into an effective solution? What logical first steps are being taken to address this unique problem? Just how has TextNinja created a viable solution for everyone?
TextNinja began humbly as a problem solving exercise in early 2014 between Ted Goodwin, a high school teacher from Denver, and Jim Ramirez, who had recently started bringing new ideas to market as founder of HYHAT (“Have You Heard About This?”). While floating together in a canoe, Jim and Ted’s conversation about the problems facing today’s teens quickly turned into a synergy of ideas and a passion for taking action.
“When such a widespread problem is presented that falls within a relevant industry and skillset, it’s impossible to ignore the opportunity to make a real difference.”
Once Ramirez got started down this road, and a few others seized the opportunity to join him, there were no distractions (pun intended). The next 2 years consisted of technology research, team building, design refinement, piloting, testing, and many development iterations.
Very early on, it was evident that user feedback was going to be crucial to developing an app that people would actually use. After all, most people aren’t willing to admit that they have a habit of sometimes checking their phone while driving, and prescribing a solution to yourself, especially for a problem that is only perceived as “somewhat risky”, (much like prescribing anything to yourself) is atypical. So the first step was a free Beta program, which proved that people would choose to drive safely, with the right engagement and incentives, and a clear ease of use.
This feedback helped to craft the first Android version which was soft-launched at the end of 2015 alongside a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded in December of 2015. The Kickstarter campaign acted mainly as a way to rally an initial user base and spark the movement. With the first building blocks in place, the team focused its attention on the iPhone version, utilizing some of the most amazing tech resources of Chicago.
Working in an environment like 1871, the Chicago startup incubator and entrepreneurial hub of the world, has provided TextNinja with plenty of support, impact, and exposure. Using a metaphor common in the startup world, where TextNinja is a horse, and the team is the jockey, 1871 is like a stable where you’re constantly around other equestrians and some of them can occasionally brush or feed your horse for you. It’s a very collaborative space, but no matter how many people tell you your horse is looking good/better, the real test of how well you can race can only be done outside of the stable.
So, TextNinja is partnering with businesses and safety organizations across the nation to make some noise outside of the stable. The solution to preventing texting while driving is inevitably two-fold: it must curb behavior by offering positive incentive, and continue raising social awareness levels (keeping both parts in mind is cleverly termed as the “TextNinja Balance”). But there are already hundreds of foundations and organizations going to great lengths to raise awareness, and an effective solution must compliment, not compete with, the work they are doing. Addressing this need, TextNinja added a feature in the app called Campaigns which offer a tool to empower these groups.
Now, TextNinja is working with other businesses (not just safety organizations) to join forces and combine efforts. An integration into the Vinli device/app store, as well as other planned integrations proves that the TextNinja solution is as versatile a tool as needed to allow anyone and everyone to get involved and help prevent distracted driving.
For a so-far entirely bootstrapped company, TextNinja is showing that this new movement is not about creating an app to make money, but one that will save lives. Just as it took a while to convince the public that seatbelts were absolutely necessary, it will take a lot of time and hard work to turn safe driving into a constructive social trend. But with the potential to save thousands and thousands of lives, TextNinja is up for the challenge!
RT @ShreyaMemorial: Something as simple as a text could cost you a life or even worse, the life of someone else #putitdown #distractionfree
about 3 days ago
It's National Teen Driver Safety Week & a great time to start the convo about #safedriving! #NTDSW #endDD… https://t.co/k3Mwrbcj91
about 4 days ago
RT How will you #takeaction for Nat'l Teen Driver Safety Week? Take the TextNinja Challenge! #NTDSW #distracteddriving https:…
about 4 days ago
RT @PADDorg: Jump behind the wheel to see how dangerous #distracteddriving & #DrunkDriving really is! Saturday 11-3 #free #charity @Natali…
about 1 week ago
Awesome turn out!! #leaderswanted https://t.co/0RRC5LrN0K
about 2 weeks ago