Jon Paris & Tim Su, Astrid: Social to-do list app for iPhone, Android & the web

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Astrid
Procrastination is easily the world’s most dangerous malady and we are yet to find a convincing cure for it. But there’s good news for those trying to rid themselves of this condition and increasing their productivity. Astrid, a social productivity app that works on the web and on Android and iOS devices, promises to harness peer pressure and task list sharing to help people keep their lives on track. We at YourStory caught up with entrepreneur Jon Paris to know more about the business idea behind the app Astrid (a Nexus Venture Partners investee), which has ensured the completion of about 25 million tasks so far. Given below are excerpts from the interview:

So, what exactly has Astrid set out to do?

The goal of the Astrid team is to help over 1 billion people become happier, healthier and more productive. We do this through a social to-do list for iPhone, Android and the web that helps individuals and groups stay organized, get more done and have fun in the process.

How is Astrid different from the other productivity apps out there? What are your flagship differentiators?

Productivity applications are often expensive, complicated or plain boring. In contrast, Astrid is free and makes list sharing as simple as group texting. Furthermore, Astrid is anything but boring. We know items on your to-do list are easy to procrastinate. So, Astrid has a bit of an attitude with her reminders to help keep you on track.  However, Astrid doesn’t do that work alone. With Astrid, your friends can provide playful, positive peer pressure to help you get more done.

How did the business idea for Astrid come about? How many people have used Astrid so far?

Astrid started when Tim Su (the CTO and co-founder) got a G1 for Android. As a side project, he built a reminder application with a personal assistant metaphor. He named it Astrid.  The initial version of Astrid cost only the $25 to launch on the Android market.  Since then, we hired a small and dedicated team of engineers and have helped over 2 million people complete nearly 25 million tasks.

Tell us about your backgrounds.

Tim has been writing software since he was 11 years old. He went on to study Electrical Engineering at Stanford.  After Stanford, Tim worked at Palantir Technology where he was a lead engineer until he left in 2010.

I studied physics and chemistry at UC Berkeley before working as a campus minister where I led groups of students at UC Berkeley and Stanford. As a campus minister, I realized that techology could be leveraged to help students and alumni become the people they meant to be.

Who is your app targeted at?

Our market is as broad as all smartphone users. But we are particularly concerned about working moms who often function as the CIO of the family.

Is there acceptance for your concept? Can you give us some incidents to illustrate the same?

As mentioned, Astrid has already helped over 2 million people completely nearly 24 million tasks on Android alone. Regularly, couples email me thanking us for the way Astrid has helped them with their shared grocery lists, shopping lists and family to-do lists and in doing so, has made their marriages better. Students have thanked us for helping them pass their classes by keeping them focused on the important items.

Where do you see the social productivity space and Astrid five years from now? What are the use cases that you’re betting on?

In 5 years, for most of the world, smartphones and phones will be synonymous.  And most smartphone users will become confortable using social networks for more than maintaining friendship, sharing photos and career networking.

We believe that email and social network news feeds will continue to become crowded communication media and the ‘productivity-minded’ require contexts to focus on the important and actionable and not merely the urgent and interesting.

List sharing between couples, households, friends and work teams will continue to grow as an important communication channel to share actionable information. We also believe that outsourcing and virtual assistants will become more common and shared lists like Astrid will become critical tools to both initiate and maintain these relationships.

We understand that you’ve been funded by Nexus Venture Partners, Google Ventures and other angel investors. What sort of value have your investors added, apart from the fund infusion?

We view all investors as partners to help us build better products and help more users discover our products.  Nexus has helped us in 3 main ways in addition to funding our team:

  • They have provided strategic introductions to OEMs and carriers to help us be discovered by new markets
  • They along with our other investors helped us in strategic decision making phases to identify oppourtinites and priorities with strategic partners
  • Nexus has brought in deep first-hand experience with emerging markets and helped us think about these opportunties and their timing. While manySilicon Valleyfirms lack this broader perspective, Nexus doesn’t suffer from this blindspot.

What are the challenges that you faced while developing Astrid? How did you overcome those challenges?

Localization was an early challenge. We opensourced our language files which enabled us to quickly translate our application into 17 languages. We also didn’t pay enough attention to design early in our product development. As a team, we have invested in seminars, classes and lots of books to help us understand design better.

How big is the team behind Astrid?

The team is currently made up of 5 engineers, 2 artists, 1 community manager, a head of UX and myself (the CEO).   4 of our team members are from Stanford.  Our artists are from Yale and RISD and I am a proud Berkeley Graduate. For a quick overview, you can see our team at http://astrid.com/about.

How has the journey been so far? Let us know about your plans for the future.

We have 350,000 monthly active users. About 25 million tasks have been completed. 58% of our users are inNorth America. The largest countries outside theUSareUK,GermanyandSouth Korea. We have had uncanny success hiring some incredible talent. We are considering raising our Series A late this year or early next year.

We at YourStory.in wish the entire team at Astrid all the very best. With the mobile phone almost becoming a limb for the modern human, we expect Astrid to reap the benefits of mass adoption of smartphones with its elegant solution to ensure productivity. To give Astrid a whirl, check out http://astrid.com. Also, do let us know what you think of this story by writing to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 24th August 2011 |Bangalore

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