Cookie Jar was not supposed to be an app. It wasn’t intended to be a digital space for saving and sharing the moments that truly matter. Rather, Cookie Jar was supposed to be my own escape. It was a personal storage place for my favorite moments. In the beginning, Cookie Jar was a mason jar on my shelf. Whether down, tired, frustrated, or simply out of sorts, I knew my Cookie Jar was there to pick me up:
Remember your 100-mile bike ride, you’re a champ …
You aced your statistics exam, keep up the good work …
Play some Beatles and enjoy the day…
Cognitive Behavior Therapy states that if you alter your thoughts, you’ll change your mood. That is the secret to my Cookie Jar. It’s the perfect distraction — it’s a happy escape.
The more I filled my Cookie Jar, the more I wanted to use it. Watching note after note pile up proved to be a motivating factor to live my life to the fullest each and every day. Little is more rewarding than seeing self-affirmation physically rise in a jar before your eyes. Soon I wanted to share my results, and it wasn’t long until friends and family had their own Cookie Jars. They filled their jars with everything from love letters, to pieces of sheet-music, to old family photos — anything that could put a smile on their faces.
There continued to be one glaring problem with my Cookie Jar concept… it wasn’t portable! I couldn’t carry around a large mason jar all day, and sometimes I needed a quick boost away from home. I began thinking, ‘if only I could capture my happy mason jar in my smartphone.’ I started working on a digital prototype. The first iterations awkwardly looked like a video game, and my technical friends were unimpressed. I continued iterating the digital design with limited success.
Months passed and I continued using my physical jar, but eventually put the digital project on hold. That is… until a chance pitch at Stanford University. I was enrolled in Stanford’s Summer School and taking a course that offered students the chance to pitch an idea and recruit a team. Most students were pitching grand ideas, (such as: firefighting drones, trash eating robots, and complex crypto currencies), when I awkwardly held my speech:
“I want to create something that makes people happy — a personal place for your favorite things.”
The auditorium went silent. They clearly didn’t know whether I was serious or not. With some of the world’s brightest young minds in attendance (and now badly confused as to whether to clap or laugh), I explained my novel concept:
“For individuals who need a ‘pick-me-up’ to get through the day, Cookie Jar will allow users to stockpile memories and remember the exciting parts of life. It’s a place for all your favorite mixed media — photos, music, voice memos, and quotes — to view in times of need.”
Seeing that I was serious, a few people in the auditorium subtly clapped and I was left wondering if I’d be able to gather a team. To my surprise a select few were interested and met with me to see how far along Cookie Jar was. I explained the origin story, went into greater depth on product vision, and finalized my team — the ‘Cookie Crew.’
Right from the get-go, we had few ups, and many downs:
- We butchered our first product demo and were equally chastised by teachers and peers.
- After weeks of work, we debated changing concepts in order to pursue a trendier topic (Virtual Reality).
- Losing faith in my leadership, my team had a secret vote to replace me as team-lead.
Our win-loss record was trending in the wrong direction. The ‘Cookie Concept’ of short-term behavioral boost had been tried before with little success, and competition and regulation is fierce in the digital mental-health sphere. ‘It’s not a business problem, but a design problem,’ was what we were continuously told by advisors. We had to reframe our concept. We desperately needed to pivot.
Instead of viewing ourselves as a mental-health company, we reframed our image towards becoming a content company. Our design and target demographics changed, as well as our results.
Despite these changes, the core concept remained the same… make people happy with their own personal experiences.
By gamifying the journaling experience and encouraging moments to be sharable, we found success with each new market test. Things were looking up. At the conclusion of the summer, we had the opportunity to pitch in front of multiple VCs and continually received praise for the idea. After each successful presentation, team morale and motivation lifted… that is until everyone had to go their separate ways.
We tried to keep the team together, but had difficulties. Even in the era of global teams and continuous communication, it is almost impossible to keep everyone together for the long haul. What once was a team of 8 turned into a team of 4. That team of 4 quickly faded to a team of 2. Eventually, the team of 2 split and only I remained. I can’t blame my team for accepting other opportunities and leaving the Cookie Crew. It was an incredibly diverse team, and we all left Silicon Valley to continue our careers across 5 continents. Nevertheless, I continued working part-time on Cookie Jar even after moving across the globe to intern at one of my idol companies — Mapify UG — while living in Berlin. I learned an immense amount in such a short time from my German host company. I was able to refine my design techniques, sharpen my pitch technique, and gain market knowledge I never would have found if I stayed in Silicon Valley. Soon everyone in the office knew about Cookie Jar.
Everytime we had a fun exchange or communal laugh, someone would say, ‘we should add that to our Jar.’
This brings us almost to the present. I have since completed my internship, and am living in Sweden. Previous team members are rejoining the team, and we are looking at an upcoming release later this spring. I have received university support and offers from multiple incubators. The project is once again gaining momentum and I’m more excited every day to see where this journey will end.
Even though there have been a few bumps in the road, one thing has remained — a desire to improve mental wellbeing, and a desire to continue the Cookie Jar Journey.
If only you’ve only skipped to the bottom of this longer than expected article… here’s a recap: after weathering the cold Scandinavian winter, failing a pitch at Stanford, watching my core team breakup, and surviving the German work ethic (seriously no joke), Cookie Jar continues. ‘Relive the moments that truly matter’ isn’t simply a mantra, It’s a lifestyle. Everything that has led me to this point has been beneficial and I am excited to see where Cookie Jar will be in the near future.