Let me know if this sounds familiar: A group of friends who are extremely annoyed by something happening in their collective lives are hanging out, when suddenly, inspiration strikes. It seems almost every startup’s origin story begins with a group of tight knit friends, but for Gary Mendel, the founder of Yopine, that’s really how it happened.
“It’s one of those almost cliché beginnings,” said Mendel. “You’re sitting there with your friends and you want to do something and all of a sudden this idea comes about.”
Mendel and his friends were getting ready for their usual ski and snowboarding trip, and like usual, planning the getaway was a complicated mess.
“Every year it’s kind of a messy long string of emails,” said Mendel. “Generally speaking, the first guy who speaks up never gets heard and the loudest and the last guy does.”
In the search for a way to democratize these sort of trivial decisions, they thought of Yopine, a polling and brainstorming app that allows users to ask their friend group (or the world) specific questions. Yopine uses two kinds of polls, first there’s the “vote” poll, which is a traditional poll style and only allows people to vote for the options the poller has included. Then theres the “brainstorm” poll, which mimics group messaging and allows people to respond to the poll with anything they want. You can choose to keep your polls public or private and you can share them with facebook, twitter, email, or a link.
“We worked very hard to keep it extremely lean and simple and fun,” said Mendel. “There aren’t any extra features that don’t really do anything.”
In keeping with this simplicity, Yopine’s name gets straight to the point, as long as you understand a little bit of Spanish.
“Yopine is literally ‘my opinion’,” said Mendel. “Yo is the Spanish word for me or my or I and opine is the verb version of the noun opinion.”
Yopine has one other important feature that sets it apart from the rest of social polling apps like Loop or Polar, it has the ability to poll hyperlocally, which means that instead of polling all Yopine users, or even all of your friends who use the app, you can poll people in a specific room. To do this, Mendel and his team use proximal awareness to “hang” their content on to the location’s (whether it’s a house or a venue) Wi-Fi signal. They can then push that content from phone to phone to create a sort of popup network.
“If you’re at a conference or a trade show or a concert or anywhere that people are gathering and you just want to gather the opinions of the people who are there, we give you the ability to do that without knowing who they are,” said Mendel.
It’s with this one of a kind feature that the Yopine team plans on breaking into education, politics, charity work and more.
“Let’s say you’re a professor and you want to ask the class a question, if you do that traditionally you may get a few hands, but you’re not going to get everyone to respond,” said Mendel. “If you put it through Yopine, you can ask them a question and then everyone can reply, and you can either make it a poll with given answers or you can just set up the question and get the answers back, and then you can instantly tell where you are as far as the comprehension of that class.”
Likewise, Mendel sees politicians and charities using the app to receive feedback from their constituency and supporters.
“We kind of see it as the modern day version of mailbox stuffing,” said Mendel.