Nowadays, we are bombarded with “likes,” comments, and updates on every single thing every single person we know is doing at every single moment. With so many ways for us to communicate, how is it that things feel so impersonal? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat all let us run our own PR campaigns on our personal lives, and as a result, the communication that occurs can feel so hollow.
Now, don’t get me wrong, social media has its own bevy of benefits as well, but overall, it’s almost as if having so many ways to communicate has made us pretty bad at, well, communicating!
Andrew Horn, CEO of Tribute, has a remedy for that. His revolutionary concept of compiling clips of all of our loved ones telling us why they love us into one perfectly edited video allows us to be able to share real emotions with those we love the most, and not just any random person on a Twitter feed. Imagine all of your family and friends getting together and making a video telling you why you are one of the most important people in their lives. That would feel pretty amazing, right? Well, let Andrew tell you about how, and why, you should do this for the special people in your life. #amazing #Tribute #CanSomeoneDoThisForMePlease?
Marie Spada: So, how did you decide to start tribute?
Andrew Horn: Well, it all started on my 26th birthday; basically what happened was my girlfriend took me out for a salsa dancing session, and then took me back to my apartment and I’m thinking she’s going to make me dinner, and when I walk into my apartment, there lies 25 random pairs of shoes on the ground. I look at her, about 3 seconds go by, and about 20 of my friends run around the corner, and it was this big surprise party. She surprised me with all these people, and we’re all hanging out, having a great time, and I’m still pretty new to New York. I’ve only been in New York for a year at this point, and these are all of my favorite people. About halfway through the party, she tells everyone to get in the living room. She stands up on a chair, and yells ‘Everyone in the living room!’ Everyone gathered around, and she had rented a projection screen. So, she turns on the projector, and then she asked me to sit in the back corner of the room. I go back, she hits play, and I figure out what she had done. She had basically sent an e-mail to 20 of my closest friends, and she asked each of them to submit a 1-minute video telling me why they love me. So, she collected 20 of these videos, put them into one montage, and surprised me with it. So, I’m sitting in the back of the room, and while I’m sitting there, I see my mom pop up onto the screen first and she starts talking about how proud of me she is. The next person I see is my best friend in New York, and he calls me his ‘best friend’ for the first time ever. The next person is my brother, and he tells me about how happy he is that we are friends again after not talking for like, 2 years. At that point, I just remember feeling overwhelmed and I started to cry. I was just bawling because it was so incredible. I took it all in for 20 minutes, and when it was all done, I looked at my girlfriend and said: ‘This is the best gift I’ve ever received’ and we kissed. We went into the next room, and I just was like, ‘How did you do this?’ and she said, ‘Well, it sucked’ and I asked her what she meant, and she said, ‘Well I had to send out literally hundreds of e-mails, collect video files through Dropbox and Google Drive and text message, and last but not least, I had to edit the entire thing in iMovie.’ She said it took her about 12 or 13 hours. So it was in that moment that I really had the light bulb of this not only being the most meaningful gift I had ever received, but the other reason people don’t get it is because it is so hard to create. That was the moment that I resolved to start Tribute, which is a technology company, and we built the software that automates the process of building the tribute. It’s a collaborative video montage of all of your friends celebrating someone by sharing their appreciation.
A: So for example, what’s your fiancé’s name?
A: So let’s say it’s Chris’ birthday. It’s three easy steps: The first step is to put in a photo of Chris. Then, pick a prompt question like, ‘Why do you love Chris?’ or ‘Why do you admire Chris?’ Next, you just put in the e-mails, and our system will automatically reach out to those people and invite them to submit a video. What’s cool is our system will keep track of who has submitted theirs, and send out reminders, so that everyone gets their video in without you having to do anything. We’ve also built this really cool interface where rather than sending videos in text message or Dropbox, they just go to our website from their phone or computer, hit one button, record the video, and submit it. Then any video that’s recorded goes into our easy video editor, much easier than an iMovie or anything like that. It’s a really simple platform where you can drag and drop the clips in the order you want. We have these cool themes that will turn your clips into a cool montage with transitions and audio. The whole goal is we built this really beautiful technology that takes this 10-hour process and makes it like 10 minutes. It’s something that so many people want to do, and so many people want to receive, but it in the past, it was such a long process. With us, you just drop in a line of e-mails and let our system do what it does, and at the end, you sit back and you have 20 videos of everyone telling the person you care about why they love them. That is what we call ‘the most meaningful gift on Earth.’
M: That’s amazing. What an incredible idea.
A: The whole ethos of the company is to spread gratitude. It’s this whole concept of we have so much love for our friends and family, but often we keep those things inside of us. That which is felt is not always voiced. It’s important that we take the time to articulate our gratitude, love, and appreciation. It is in that action that we reaffirm the depth of our connection with the people we care about. We want to challenge people and hopefully inspire them to take on this behavior. A tribute is basically the opposite of a eulogy. A eulogy happens when you are dead, a tribute happens when you are alive. Would you rather everyone you know tell you that they think you’re awesome when you’re dead, or on your 30th birthday?
M: Definitely on my 30th.
A: Right?! It’s cool, and the grander vision now is, video messaging is how people communicate these days, and we realized that video is incredibly powerful for expressing emotion. We really believe that video is going to become the next medium for celebratory greeting cards and things like that. We’re bridging now to digital greeting cards, which will be a one-to-one expression of that gratitude and emotion. Now, on people’s birthdays or weddings, you can send them these video cards telling them why you love them. So that’s how we will reach the masses and become something that’s more accessible that you can do in a minute to show someone how much they mean to you. It’s like, how do you build a modern era Hallmark for the Digital Age, but with an emphasis on gratitude? Hallmark cards are so important and have helped people articulate these beautiful messages, so our whole ethos is one of expressing gratitude. If you have millions of people engaged in that kind of communication, the world is a happier, more well-connected place.
M: That’s true. If everyone expressed their gratitude more for one another, I’m sure we’d have a much happier society overall.
A: Here’s some crazy statistics that talk about why this kind of technology is needed. If you look at the way young people are using their devices, you see that there’s even more communication. People are interacting with one another more often, but the depth and authenticity is often times lost to automation and ease. Just because we are ‘liking’ and commenting on things, we’re seeing people acting this illusion of connectedness without the actual depth. So what Tribute is, is a solution that does help people communicate to connect. There’s a recent study that came out, and in 1980 they asked 2 million people, ‘Do you feel lonely? and 20 percent of the respondents said yes. They did that same longitudinal study in 2010, and the number doubled to 40 percent. It’s like, how are people more lonely now when they’re able to be connected to their friends? It’s that people are no longer communicating in meaningful ways. If you look at generations that are growing up with digital communication at the forefront of how they interact with one another, and they are less comfortable existing face-to-face with one another. They become less comfortable communicating their emotions to one another. They’re much more controlled and much more conscious of how their actions are going to be perceived, and so the video messaging world and this generation needs a place where it is not only safe, but encouraged to share meaningful, heartfelt messages with people they care about. Again, if you go to Facebook for someone’s birthday, all of these friends say, ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘You’re the best!’ and leave these very surface-level remarks. If you were to go on there and say, ‘Hey, I love you, you’ve got my back, and I admire you for all of these reasons,’ it would stand out and you’d be judged for that. There needs to be a different platform for people to be able to open up and share these messages, and it doesn’t exist in the ecosystem of Snapchat or Facebook or Twitter. Tribute wants to do that for the masses.
M: I love the idea of bridging the two worlds.
A: Totally, and the tagline for the company is literally: ‘The Most Meaningful Gift on Earth,’ and that’s it. We’ve done these for graduations, weddings, retirement parties, employee appreciation, marathons, people who have passed away, and it’s just like, if you want to give someone a meaningful gift, this is without a doubt, the most thoughtful, meaningful thing you can do. It’s because it’s not just you, it’s connecting someone to their entire community.
M: That’s true. That kind of generosity is truly immeasurable.
A: We actually have this one stat, this crazy stat, which measures it in a way I couldn’t do myself. We call that ‘TOJ.’ TOJ literally stands for: Tears of Joy. So early on, when we started Tribute, we had so many people come to us and say that the recipient cried when they watched the video. So we put a statistic in our feedback survey, and it asks the customer if the recipient cried tears of joy, and after our first 100 customers filled out their feedback survey, guess how many people actually cried tears of joy?
M: I cry about everything, so I’m going to say 99 percent?
A: Eighty percent! Think about this: we created a technology product, and 80 percent of the people who received it literally cried tears of joy when they experienced it. That speaks to how powerful this product really is.
M: It really does. I bet you have many more TOJs on the way!
A: We just gave out 6,000 Tributes into the Grammy gift bags! It was so cool. We made beautiful gold gift cards with a code for them to use. It was great to see so many people lined up to receive them. We had 10,000 Tributes created last year, and the goal is very much now to show every person on the planet. If you ask most people if they’d like to receive a Tribute, the answer is yes.
M: How does the pricing work for Tribute?
A: There are two price tiers: There’s the Classic Tribute, which is $25 and gives you access to the software. That means that you can create one for your friend, and you’re responsible for adding e-mails, and when the videos are submitted, you just drag and drop in the order you want, and our editor does everything else. You then own the video in perpetuity, and you can always access the video on our site. You actually get a high-res MP4 video. The second price tier is our Concierge Tribute, and that’s $125. So with that, you actually don’t have to do any editing yourself. We have someone who will put all the clips in order, trim them, add music, set all the slides, and you literally just enter the e-mails, you’re done, and the concierge will do everything else for an extra $100. So you just drop the e-mails, and 10 days later, you have an incredible video. We also do some things like the Pro Tribute, which is when you collect say, 40 minutes of video, but you want to create a 2 or 3 minute highlight reel for your company or event, we have professional editors who will edit that down for you. We also just introduced these delivery options. Let’s say your grandma is retiring, and you want to give her an amazing gift, but you want her to have more than a digital video. We actually created these two delivery options. One is a bamboo USB that gets delivered to her, so now they have a keepsake of the actual . We also have this new, very cool thing, which is an actual video card. Imagine the same way you open up a Hallmark card, except now there’s a 7-inch LCD screen when you open it up. It’s like the Cadillac of Tribute. Now you have the surprise of someone having no idea what they’re looking at. That’s $49.
M: What?! Only $49?!
A: Yep! We want to have it be accessible. We’re really psyched about that.
M: What have been some of the highlights for you since starting Tribute?
A: One of the first ones was actually for a friend of mine, who was also an investor in the company. He was a very well-known entrepreneur, and an employee at Google. He passed away climbing Mt. Everest for his second time last year. His name was Dan, and he was a very close friend of ours. In the aftermath of his passing, before his funeral, we decided to put a Tribute together. A normal Tribute is usually around 15 to 20 minutes long. Dan’s Tribute ended up being an hour and 40 minutes long. This guy, who was a giant in our community and meant so much to so many people, to be able to give his parents this gift of showing them how much their son meant to so many people, was just so powerful. They’ve stayed in touch, in fact his mom sent me a message last week and said they watch the video all the time, and it was the most meaningful gift they’d ever received. It was so powerful to give someone something that is so important to them. It’s been one of the most important moments that really reminded us of why we do what we do. Another moment like that was for our friend Filipe, who was diagnosed with cancer, and he came out of an operation where they had to amputate his leg. I’ll get to happy stories, I swear! But Filipe found out he had cancer, and he has two kids and a wife and as a 40-year-old guy, he has to amputate his leg. Can you imagine how dark of a place you would be in knowing that? So his friend Loren got in touch and said, ‘We need to get everyone together and do this,’ and Filipe has friends all over the world. We created this 30-minute Tribute with his friends all over the world saying that they are there for him, love him, and respect him, and it just blew him away. To be in such a dark place and then feel so connected to his community was so powerful. The director of the San Francisco Orchestra also received one, where the musicians that had played with him over the last 30 years sent him a Tribute talking about how much they loved playing with him. So, you’ll have teachers who are retiring after 40 years with students coming back telling them how they changed their lives, and so many moments of gratitude.
M: Wow. I don’t even know what to say. But I am so sorry about your friend.
A: Thank you. But you know what? He was doing exactly what he wanted to do. He was literally summiting Everest for the second time, and even though a massive ice fall had killed many people he knew, he decided to go back anyway. It’s hard to lose somebody, but it’s easier to come to grips with it when you know they were doing what they loved.
M: I’m happy he was doing what he loved and he had such a great community around him. What are your long-term goals for Tribute?
A: The way that people are using Snapchat today, imagine that many people using Tribute sending gratitude filled, celebratory messages every single day. That’s the ultimate vision. We want to create a platform that facilitates that same level of communication between people, except ours will have peoples’ friends telling them how much they mean to them, and people sharing amazing stories with their parents, and that’s what we really want. We want to be the Snapchat for meaningful messages, or the Hallmark of the Digital Age.