Questions about your life

You may have noticed a new email landed in your inbox over the weekend.  As well as sending you updates about what your family has been up to, Twile now automatically generates questions for you to answer that will help to fill gaps on your family timeline – and sends them to you by email each week.

Twile family history questions by email

In a recent survey, we found that very few family historians record their own life, meaning that a lot of their memories will be lost to future generations. Half of the people we surveyed said their great-grandchildren would know very little about their life.

We encourage our Twilers to add events from their own lives, in addition to documenting what their ancestors got up to.  This means adding your own early life events (schools, homes), career (college, jobs) and everything that came after that (holidays, marriage, children).  It’s your opportunity to paint a clearer picture of your life for future generations to explore.

The questions we send you each week will help identify pieces of your family story we think are missing.  It might be milestones from your own life or it might be events and details about your parents’ or grandparents’ lives that you may know.

As with everything we build into Twile, we’d love to hear what you think of the new Questions feature.  Please add a comment below, or just send us an email to help@twile.com.

Twile supports #CreateUK

This week we have been supporting The Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s campaign #CreateUK, a week long celebration and showcase of the creative industries in the UK.s300_CREATE_UK_GOV.UK

As a tech startup in the UK, we’re delighted to be amongst a community of fellow creatives who are generating almost £10m every hour for the UK economy!

When asked why we create, many reasons sprang to mind and it reminded us of an article that Paul Brooks (Twile co-founder) wrote to TechCityInsider earlier this year:

“When we first started Twile in 2013, we had dreams and expectations of quick success, exponential growth and big investment. As it turns out, building a startup is a lot more than that. Along with my co-founder Kelly Marsden, I launched the company as part of the first Dotforge accelerator in Sheffield and quickly managed to close a small seed investment round from local angel investors.

We soon found that growing a consumer userbase with a small budget and an early product is not easy. We regularly worked 70-weeks with very little to show for them except a little more understanding and gradually improving product. We managed to maintain the confidence of our investors and they put more money in to two more rounds over the next two years, giving us the runway we needed to experiment, pivot and chase product-market fit. There were many times when we didn’t think we’d last long enough.

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Based in Yorkshire, it has been difficult to attract big investment and raise our profile in the tech community. While there are initiatives such as Tech North , to address the challenges faced by entrepreneurs outside of London, the capital is still very much the centre of the UK tech community.

To secure investment, you need to meet as many investors as possible and work to build long term relationships with them, keeping them updated on your progress and successes. With limited budget, it hasn’t been possible for us to travel to London regularly or spend large periods of time there. The fact that everyone involved in the business has young children has made this even more difficult. Of course, there are investors in the North, but from our experience most of them are lacking an understanding of the tech industry, especially web software. For example, it is fairly typical for a consumer app to prioritise growth over revenue at the start, but most investors we have met in the North East, for instance, expect to see a healthy turnover and strong balance sheet before they’ll even glance at the cover of a business plan.

Despite these challenges, our perseverance and hard work is paying off. In 2015 we started to gain recognition as an innovative visualisation tool for the family history market and started to acheive real growth.

We attended the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City in February and won two of the four innovations awards as part of the innovator showdown competition – returning to the UK with $16,000 in cash and another $10,000 in “in-kind” support. We are looking forward to returning to RootsTech in 2017.

On our return, we learned that we had secured investment and a partnership deal with Findmypast, one of the leading names in family history. This gives us the resources and support we need to grow Twile into a global brand.

In under three years, we have evolved Twile from an early concept into a robust, fully featured product that solves a real problem for our customers. We have made a point of talking to our users as often as possible and we’ve used their input to intelligently prioritise development. We’ve put a huge amount of effort into every phase of the business and we’ve acknowledged our failures as essential steps to success.

If there’s a moral to our story, it’s that our own hard work is going to deliver the results. It’s easy to blame market conditions, geographical location, lack of government support of any other external factors for the failure of a start-up, but we’ve seen a number of early stage businesses (including Twile) succeed in recent years and every one of them has put a lot of effort in to overcome the obstacles they’ve been faced with.

Fortunately, recent investment in the infrastructure for start-ups outside of London is beginning to amplify the hard work that entrepreneurs are willing to put in.

Organisations like Creative England, (who have been hugely supportive in our journey, backing us from the beginning) and Tech North and accelerators like Dot Forge and Ignite are making it easier to start and succeed. If this can be matched by investors with an appetite for opportunities outside of London, I believe we will see many more successful northern startups in the near future.”

The #CreateUK campaign this week reminds us that with hard work we can continue to thrive and take advantage of the new opportunities which are opening up to do business across the world. Why do we create? Because it’s our dream, our passion, our mission to succeed.

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Twile is now even faster!

You asked, we delivered: How your feedback improves Twile

In April 2016 we made some big changes to the invisible parts of Twile, which means that the whole website now runs faster and can handle any size of family tree. You will hopefully notice that everything loads more quickly, especially if you have a large family on the site.

Now that this work is complete, we thought you might be interested to have an insight into the challenges of building a website like Twile and keeping it running smoothly.

We build Twile in a ‘lean’ way, which basically means that we build new features as quickly as we can to get your feedback on them sooner. We don’t try to make everything perfect straight away – we could spend a very long time getting a feature just right, only to find that nobody wants it! Instead, we will build a simpler version of a feature and then make some changes and improvements to it over time, based on the conversations we have with customers like you.

The family tree is a good example of this. When we first built the tree in 2014, it was only designed to display 10-20 people (and GEDCOM was but a twinkle in our eyes). It couldn’t show multiple marriages, often displayed siblings in the wrong order and it didn’t look anywhere near as pretty.

But, it allowed us to collect feedback and prove that we were heading in the right direction. We’ve since improved the family tree gradually, adding new features. tweaking the design and allowing it to handle much larger and more complicated families.

The performance work we’ve done in April is the latest in a long and continued line of work on the family tree. The site can now comfortably handle any size of tree (we’ve tested it with 100,000 people so far).

All of this comes from the conversations we have with our customers. Some of the changes we’ve been asked for – and are still planning to build in – are support for adopted families, multiple trees and admin controls for the tree owner. These are all on their way.

The challenge of building a product like Twile is deciding what to work on first. We have a lot of customers asking for lots of different things, so we have to prioritise the ones that will improve Twile the most for the largest number of people. It is for this reason that we encourage you to give us your feedback – the more people that ask for a particular feature, the more likely we are to build it soon.

And in between the launch of new features, we’re always working on the hidden aspects of Twile – making it faster and more reliable. This is a never-ending task, as we have more users and more complex features every single day.

So we hope that you will be patient with us while we make Twile as amazing as we can. Our team is expanding, with two new developers joining the Twile team in May, which will mean that progress on some features will be accelerated. We ask that you keep telling us what you like, dislike and would like to see – in that way you’re helping us build the perfect tool for you.

Image by Freepik 

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