Behind the scenes at Karmr

I thought I would christen our new blog with a bit of background to Karmr and the team behind it.

At the start we were really just a team of one (me – Martin Saunders) and Karmr was a bit of a Friday project just before Christmas 2012 where I wanted to play around with a few ideas and make an app of my own instead of making things for other people all the time. Since then, what I thought would be a side project has completely taken over and is now my main project.

Who am I? Well, I am married with three fantastic children. I have a PhD in NMR (quantum physics with medicine) and I used to own a design and build agency in the Midlands which I sold via trade sale a couple of years ago. I setup TBC Digital as a vehicle to act as an agency while building a few of my own things – Karmr being one. As well as making tech things I work with the Computing at School group to try and get computing into schools and run Computing++ which is a tool to help schools find tech mentors to help them introduce computing to their curricula.

We also have Steve Price who is working on the server architecture and getting us in good shape to take over the world. Steve will also oversee the tech development process when there is something to oversee.

Finally we have a few advisors:

Nicholas Begley advises us on psychology. Before founding Psyt, Nick was Head of Research at Headspace where he worked on the development of two Headspace mindfulness apps, one reaching No.1 in the Itunes App Store in Health and Fitness and the other soon to be realised. For the second he was awarded $25,000 for the development of an online mindfulness app that used ESM methods in collaboration with Yale School of Medicine. He is a practising mindfulness teacher and has worked at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) investigating the neural correlates of mindfulness for his Masters Dissertation in Cognitive Science. He has extensive financial experience working in the City as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and holds a First Class Honours Degree in Physics from University College London.

Grant Slatter advises us on design and user experience. Grant was previously a successful property developer and has a series of children’s books – The Oddies. Grant has a #1 Health and Fitness iOS app “Star Trainer” which provides a virtual personal trainer and is currently working on a new shopping concept “Shareight” to be announced soon.

So, what’s the big idea? Well, I do a load of different things and I like that. For example I have done a bunch of different jobs – I’ve been a milkman, a chef, worked in a timber yard, been a synthetic chemist, run a digital agency, been an iOS developer, made jam and metal safety guards (not at the same time) – and I have a far richer outlook on the world that I would have if I had just sat on my backside and watched TV or got a dull 9-5 job and never moved on.

The point for me is that doing things matters and this can be in all sorts of ways. It might be simple things like cooking or playing with your kids, it might be professional things like how you have done your job or it might be “good deeds”. The fact of the matter though is that by doing things you make an impact on the world and no matter how small this is it should be recognised and celebrated.

In terms of what this looks like, well the mechanics are a lot like other social platforms. The filter though is on things that have been done in a similar way to Instagram being all about images. One result of focussing on actions is that you realise that you actually do quite a lot of things in a day and almost all of these are positive. Even things like making yourself breakfast is a positive thing to do as you are caring for yourself. This implicit leaning towards positive content as well as the reward “+K” mechanism means that users of the app are encouraged and rewarded for doing good things and the balance of content for consumption is vastly more balanced than mainstream media and current social platforms.

One important question though – what is a good action? That is up to the users. What is good for one person might not be for another and Karmr recognises this by allowing users to follow people they give Karmr to meaning they curate their own feed of people that do things they find interesting and relevant, not just good deeds and world changing things (although we like them too).

So, Karmr is an open platform for actions. These actions will inherently lean towards being positive or being good deeds but any action is welcome – the community will provide the measure. We deliver a stream of content from these actions and hopefully people will enjoy consuming this and build relationships with likeminded people.

There is a second layer that allows physical rewards to be given and that allows corporates / charities to use Karmr as a tool to track their peoples actions with an option for privacy. Rewards allow brands to encourage a specific activity which associating themselves with that action type. This is essentially a marketing tool for them.

For corporates and charities we provide an ability to invite people to a group which they can choose to post their actions to. Optionally, group actions can be kept private so only the group will see what people are doing. The group organiser can then use this to track and measure activity. This might be used to run an activity based corporate incentive scheme in conjunction with Karmr Rewards (do 20 volunteering actions and get some vouchers) or by charities and social enterprises to measure the impact of e.g. volunteers.