First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Andrew Horn: All things considered, I have been doing great. Apparently, both me and my wife’s business are social distancing proof, so we are doing what we can to support our extended community that has been having a tougher go of it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Tribute
Andrew Horn: Tribute was all started by a meaningful gift seven years ago. My wife decided to collect twenty videos from my friends and family members for my birthday and got them all to tell me why they loved me. When I got home that night, she surprised me with the video. I sat in the back of the room bawling my eyes out as I watched twenty minutes of my favorite people telling me why they thought I was awesome.
Immediately, after coming out of that, I looked at her and said, “How did you do this?” Without blinking an eye, she looked back and said, “Well, it kind of sucked.” Tens of hours emailing people, reminding them hundreds of times. Collecting videos through Dropbox, Drive, text message and last, but not least, editing everything together in iMovie. So, within a couple of minutes, I realized it should not be this hard to create the most meaningful gift on earth. We decided to create Tribute. What started as a dream to share the experience that I had seven years ago with the world has now turned into this movement, where we have now given more than one million tribute videos over the past seven years and we are really just getting started.
How does Tribute innovate?
Andrew Horn: Our company innovates by solving problems that we care about. So the same way that I had that really meaningful experience and identified a problem that I wanted to solve…now we just apply that same mentality moving forward. As we look into the evolution of the company, we simply ask ourselves what is a big problem that we really care about? The issue that we care most about is meaningful human connection and the epidemic of loneliness that we’re facing. According to a recent survey by Cigna, more than 50% of millennials identify as lonely. This has all sort of detrimental impacts on health and the collective well being of our society.
We are building technology to create the context for meaningful communication and building meaningful relationships. We innovate by solving problems that we care about and that impact lots of people around the world.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Andrew Horn: We have had quite the influx of traffic during social distancing. We have actually grown our business 30x over the past four months. We have been seeing hundreds of thousands of visitors on our site, every single day. A lot of this has happened because we decided to make our core product completely free to support people who have been impacted by social distancing and quarantine. So, our business has actually seen quite a boom over the past several months, and we have committed to Andrew Horn our basic products completely free of charge during social distancing.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Andrew: I think one of the hardest questions that we had to ask ourselves early on was, did we want to show up to support people and sacrifice some profits to really be of service to our community? We thought the decision to make our platform free for users would result in hundreds of thousands in lost revenue. Lost and behold, it ended up creating so much good will with the press, with our community, that what we thought was going to be a sacrifice of some revenue to make our product free, ultimately ended up benefiting the company with over a million dollars in revenue.
I think that one of the lessons learned is that if you just always try to add value to your customers, if you try to be of service, people are going to appreciate it, and it will have a positive, enduring impact. That lesson was just reaffirmed in us. When you’re trying to build a community, focus on how you can be of service. When people feel that they’re being supported, they will oftentimes want to give that right back to you.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Tribute in the future?
Andrew Horn: We’re very conscious about how we deal with stress and anxiety at the company. We like to run our company as though it is a mirror, an anchor, to hold us accountable for being who we want to be in the world. So I check in with all of our executive employees, every single week, to not just set goals for them on what they want to accomplish for the business this week, but what they need to accomplish for themselves. Has their workout regimen been getting out of control? How’s their diet been? How’s their mental state of being? Do they need to get into nature? Do they need to take a day off? So we are always asking ourselves, not just what do we need to get done for the company, but what do we need to get done for ourselves, to be living really full, happy lives. So that’s how we deal with stress and anxiety.
Regarding where we are going in the future, we see the future being very bright. Right now, we’ve just raised some capital. We are highly profitable. We have a vision for a second product that we think can take us from a million users to tens of millions of users. We are running the company in a way that we’re proud of, we are hiring some amazing people and we have a product we really believe in. We also believe that we are heading into a space in our society, where we need technology companies to take a stand for meaningful connection and to provide services that genuinely add value to the subjective well being of their users. So, we are excited for what the future holds and ready to work hard to get it done.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andrew Horn: We have a couple of competitors. There are companies like KudoBoard, who focus on text and photos and companies like VidHug, who do some of the similar kinds of collaborative video gifting. One of the ways that we really differentiate ourselves is our video editing technology. We are the only company on the internet that has a true, collaborative video editor, where you can add music behind clips, you can stitch things together, and you can trim clips. So we have a clear advantage with the technology that we have.
The second advantage, I would say, is our brand, which is completely focused on helping people to share what really matters as opposed to making something easy. We want our service to be as meaningful as possible, and that’s why 80% of our customers report that they cried tears of joy, and it is because we have always been focused on how we get people to say the thing that is going to matter the most as opposed to what is easiest, which might just be sending a gift or a photo. So that’s how we really differentiate ourselves.
Your final thoughts
Andrew Horn: I think it’s important for people to realize that in this time where we are spending so much of our lives online, we’re managing our digital relationships online. Technology is not bad. Technology is a tool and it can either be good or bad, based on how we use it. People need to become much more intentional with how they use these tools or they will take control of your life. They will warp you into these distraction holes, where you lose your day, where you are no longer cultivating relationships in a deep, meaningful, lasting, manner.
So one final thought here is technology is a powerful tool, and because it is becoming so prevalent in our lives, it is important for everyone to really take a stand for using technology in the ways that are truly supporting their subjective well being, their growth, and their relationships. Tribute is certainly trying to help people to do that, and it is important to remember each of us has an opportunity to really take an audit of how we’re using technology, how it’s supporting our life, how it’s detracting from it, and decide how we’re going to use it moving forward.