by Joleen Small
Imagine if you could leave a message for your future self that arrives in your inbox ten years from now. What if you could send birthday wishes to your children several years before they’re born, or congratulate your grandkids on their high school graduation years before it happens? The tech company Dominic Gallo founded, Forget Me Not, lets you do all of that. It’s an app that allows users to schedule video, audio, text, or picture messages to be opened by a loved one at a later date.
Think of it as a digital time capsule.
Dominic got the idea from a personal tragedy. His father knew Dominic was able to create apps and wanted him to build one where he could leave his children timely advice as they grew older. Unfortunately, Dominic’s father wasn’t able to see his idea come to fruition -- he died a year and a half ago from brain cancer. But Dominic thought that someone else might be able to benefit from his father’s idea. “No person should die wishing they could do those things,” Dominic says, referring to all the messages and advice someone might want to leave their loved ones. Forget Me Not was born.
Developing the Software. The development stage was critical to starting the company, as the app required software that had never been created. Although Dominic is a self-taught web and app developer, he needed someone with more experience to build the app while he handled other parts of llaunching the business.
Lessons Learned. He reached out to an old high school classmate to create the software, but they ran into a huge roadblock. His former classmate worked for a major corporation as a software developer that had a strict policy against employees doing outside work. “His company basically stonewalled him and said if you continue to develop this software, we’re going to own it, so you need to stop working on it immediately,” Dominic explains. Six months’ worth of work had to be thrown away, and the whole project had to start over. Needless to say, finding out there can be limitations on professional software developers’ side projects was a painful learning experience for both of them.
Finding the Market. Dominic eventually managed to get the software developed. He then had to find his market. He started off thinking his product would be targeted to retirees and people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. “I had to run a lot of surveys to figure out who my target customer might be, how much money they’d be willing to pay, and how they would want to use it,” Dominic explains. His SCORE mentor, Jan Albanese, specializes in marketing and helped him perform his research. “Jan helped me with the surveys, including how to word the questions to get the right information. Then she even linked me up with someone whose job it is to write surveys,” he says. Through that research, he found out that his target customers were actually middle-aged women with children and disposable income. Now he was able to develop a strategy to target that demographic.
Building an Audience. Jan continued to help Dominic think of different ways to find his audience. Part of growing a client base for Forget Me Not included creating a significant social media presence. It took the better part of a year to build a community of people who were interested in the platform and in becoming part of the first cohort of participants for its beta launch. “Starting a business like this, you don’t just snap your fingers and you have users. It takes a while to build your audience. So, we’ve been doing that by creating engaging posts and trying to get as many people as possible to like our Facebook page,” Dominic says.
The Power of Mentorship. It was hard to stay motivated throughout the process, but with some mentorship he was able to stay the course. “If I didn’t have Jan, I would have been throwing darts in the dark until one landed," says Dominic. “The biggest threat was not being knowledgeable and making mistakes that new entrepreneurs might make. SCORE basically helped me navigate the minefields of bad decisions that would otherwise have put this company out of business in no time at all.”
Forget Me Not officially launches June 1.