Why I Founded Offline

In 2011, the summer before my senior year at NC State, I started thinking about the biggest problems facing humanity over the next 100 years. The mind of most engineers would jump to the well-publicized problems (clean air, clean water, etc.), but I found myself thinking about those that were more nuanced. In particular, our dehumanization through constant exposure to technology worried me the most because it seemed to have the least resistance and was also, back then, the least discussed. I hadn’t owned a phone until I was 16, but now I watched our generation end every night with a smartphone in hand, wake up every morning to the sound of their phone, spend most of the day on laptops, and finally return home to the couch for a few hours of TV.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Sure, there would be a gym session in there somewhere and we got a bit of face time with each other in between, but I felt that our human connection was slipping away without us even noticing it — like the proverbial frog in hot water. The tipping point for me that summer in 2011 was an article in the New York Times: we had crossed a threshold and now spent more than half of our waking lives staring at screens.

This is where Offline was born — with an enemy in mind. My goal from day one was to use the power of technology (instant access to information, personalization, etc.) to help us rediscover and reconnect with our physical communities in ways that were never before possible. In other words, to use technology for a nobler purpose. The metrics of success for many modern internet companies are time on site, “time on couch,” and daily usage. I envisioned a different company that measured success when it created a moment that brought people closer together in the physical world. I wanted a company that made your couch miss you instead of the reverse.

Now, obviously no startup can exist on pure altruism. Each must find a business case: a compelling set of market forces and user spending behaviors that can be leveraged for a profitable outcome. It took me nearly two years to understand where the meaning of Offline converged with the realities of the market. It’s important that Offline not only be an altruistic force for reconnecting with the local community, but also be a driver of profitable interactions between businesses and patrons.

But that business case is ultimately not why we’re here. If our venture went sideways and “Offline Media, Inc.” ceased to exist, we would have lost the battle but made a meaningful contribution to the ongoing war. Offline stands for something more than an “event calendar app.” Offline helps you ‘avoid average weekends…’ which means it gives you the tools, the inspiration, the motivation, etc. to fall in love with where you live and to fall in love with life. It’s a challenge to not be complacent. To be a doer and not a dreamer. Spend time with the people you care about. Explore. Appreciate the uniqueness of the community and people around you. It’s not so much a product as it is a philosophy — a way of being that we truly believe in.

This is the philosophy that we’re trying to teach the world.

And we want you to join us. Whether that’s by working with us, co-promoting that philosophy with us, or simply making an everyday effort to spend more time creating meaning in the physical world, know that we’re with you every step of the way.

Cheers to the adventurous life,

David Shaner

Want more? Here’s a list of companies who I view as “mission allies”









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The Independent