Danielle Gillespie and Beth Pyle are the founders of thankr, an app for sending personalized thank you notes. Follow thankr on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Danielle Gillespie is tech-crazy, the co-founder of the thankr app, and the founder of CorkGuru, a digital marketing platform for the wine industry. Danielle has worked in tech all of her professional life, starting as a software developer for her first job out of college. Danielle graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Computer Engineering.
Beth Pyle is a middle-school-teacher-turned-mom. She manages a very active household with two energetic children who keep her running at warp speed. Beth has an innate appreciation for technology and wants to help moms everywhere simplify their lives. Beth graduated from Bucknell University with a BA in English and Economics.
Gillespie and Pyle are both strong advocates for the power of gratitude. They also believe it’s important to show and teach their kids the importance of showing appreciation. They thought, "wouldn’t it be cool if we had a fun and easy way to show more appreciation to others not only for the big things in life but also the small things as well?" So, they created the thankr app, which allows people to use video and pictures to send fun, personalized, and engaging thank you notes from their mobile phones.
What inspired you to start your company?
Though our children are different ages, we both are the type of mom to always have our children write thank you notes; we feel it is important for them to show gratitude, but it was a struggle for varying reasons with each age group. A year and a half ago, Danielle’s son was graduating from high school and her twin daughters were turning 16, which meant many thank you notes were stacked up and waiting to be written in her house. When Danielle noticed her twins SnapChatting friends funny pictures and videos of them with their gifts, she got to thinking. She reached out to me to ask about our approach to thank you notes and if I felt an app would be a good idea. I thought it was brilliant as I had just struggled through thank you notes with my then three year old, and here we are!
What advice would you give to fellow women who are looking to start their own tech company?
Understand your mission and values, form a team of people who believe in the core values and whose skill sets complement your own. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you will be turned down and sometimes you will find just what you need.
Is there any coding or technical knowledge that helped you create this business?
Danielle has been developing software for most of her professional career either as a developer or architect. Although she has not specifically developed products for a few years, that background helped when generating a complete app specification and managing the development, testing, and launch of the app.
What’s involved in getting an app developed?
Most people start with a rough idea of what they want, this can be either “back of a napkin,” verbal, or fully defined functional definition. Before beginning development, you should have a fairly detailed functional document describing how the app is going to behave and how users are going to interact with it.
A beta app can be quickly developed to prove the concept works and used as a focus for discussion on how the product should work. You may also be able to attract some investors at this stage.
Version 1 of the product will likely require a professional graphic designer specializing in UI/UX. This is not cheap, but it will be important for how your product is viewed upon release. Version 1 will be developed and tested iteratively. Once it is ready to go, it can be released: web-based products can be put into production, iOS products are submitted to Apple for approval then released to the App Store, Android products are released to the Android Store.
What is the most important thing you hope your children learn about women in tech as they watch you in the years to come?
Our hope is that our kids learn the power of choice and that working hard yields options. Working hard in high school gives the opportunity for college, working hard after high school gives you employment options. Get a great job, work hard, and you will learn new skills, meet new people, and find new opportunities. Once you decide to have a family, choose to become a full-time mom, a part-time coder, a high-ranking executive. No matter where you are in life, work hard and give yourself options so you can choose the best possible path for your well-being.
Is there anything else you would like to share with Moms Can: Code?
We are excited about thankr and hope that it encourages people to show gratitude. Our goal is to provide a free, fun, and easy way for people of all ages to send a thank you. Senders need to download the app to send a thankr, but anyone can receive a thankr as long as they have an email address and/or cell phone number.
What are ways you stay current? Do you have any favorite websites or podcasts?
TechCrunch (email) covers a lot of ground. Podcasts: Exponent and Masters of Scale
For fun: Eater (email)
What is your favorite founding mom moment?
Beth: That my kids love wearing their thankr shirts around and will find any reason they can to send someone a thankr. My nine-year-old son also believes he is famous because he had his name appear in an article that the Sewickley Herald ran about our app.
How do you create balance in your life?
We both attempt electronic-free family dinners each night with whomever is home. We also support family members through their endeavors and make sure we all pause and appreciate the little things.