The technical challenges of running a growing startup

While we are constantly trying to add new features to your Twile timeline and family tree, I thought it might be useful to give some insight into how much time is spent simply ensuring Twile runs smoothly behind the scenes.

One of the things we love about building Twile is the close relationship we have with our customers.  We have always actively encouraged our customers to give us their feedback and reach out when we can help in any way.  And our customers clearly appreciate this level of conversation – something they very rarely get from other online brands.

The feedback we receive makes it much easier for us to build the features that customers want to use.  Pretty much everything we add into Twile has been directly or indirectly requested by our users.

Unfortunately, there is also a large amount of development work needed that doesn’t lead to shiny new features.  As Twile has grown (we’ve been around for nearly four years now), we’ve had to adapt many technical aspects of Twile to accommodate the requirements of our audience.  Who knew you guys could have 50,000 people on a family tree?!

And as we add new features to the app, we have to review its look-and-feel and layout, to make sure it still has the minimalist simplicity that our customers have told us they love.

Fortunately, we have a great team of developers who are experts in all of the above.  Every single piece of Twile that you either can or can’t see has been designed and built internally by Twile’s own developers.  We’re very proud of them 🙂

So, please keep your suggestions coming – we love to hear your feedback and we take on board every idea or request you send our way.  We have to spend a lot of our time maintaining the existing features and keeping Twile running smoothly, but we’re also working as hard as we can to add all of the features you’re hoping for.

And we have some very big features coming soon!

Twile is announced as one of Creative England’s Top 50 companies

Every year, Creative England reveals their CE50 – a list of the fifty best up-and-coming, innovative companies in the creative industries in England.  Twile are delighted to be one of this year’s 50!

The list includes some of the most exciting startups in the film, music, gaming and digital spaces.  It’s a very broad range of companies, reflecting and celebrating the success and diversity of British creativity.

CE_Live_2017_089

Creative England have supported Twile since we first launched in 2013 and it’s an honour to be among their top companies.  We’ve changed a lot since our early days and have evolved Twile into a uniquely innovative offering in the family history space – they’re still there supporting us as we grow and our place in the CE50 must mean we’re doing something right.

Read the interview with Twile’s CEO, Paul Brooks, in the Daily Telegraph this week: Three tips for launching a company in the creative sector

And read the full report here: Creative England CE50 2017

 

 

 

 

Our five highlights from RootsTech 2017

The Twile team were at RootsTech 2017 last week, at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, one year after we won 2 awards there in the Innovator Showdown.

Last year there was a huge buzz around Twile, because we were pitching in the competition and because we were introducing Twile for the first time to most people.  And the buzz was still there this time – RootsTech is such an exciting experience for family historians and we love being among such enthusiastic people!

Here are our five highlights from RootsTech 2017:

  1. Twile is now FREE for everyone
    On the first day of RootsTech, we announced we were dropping the subscription fee for Twile and making it completely free for everybody to use.  Needless to say, this was a very popular piece of news and we had a lot of new customers very excited to start using our family history timeline.
  2. Family history infographic
    We showcased our new family history infographic at RootsTech, allowing attendees to sign up and get their free “My Family In Numbers” chart, based on their FamilySearch or GEDCOM tree.  Get yours for free at: https://twile.com/numbers
  3. Innovator Showdown
    Five teams made it through to the final of the Innovator Showdown competition on Friday, 10th February.  Congratulations to Old News USA (1st), Qromatag (2nd), Double Match Triangulator (3rd) and Kindex with the coveted People’s Choice award! As one of last year’s winners, Twile were invited back on stage to give an update on what we’ve been up to since then.
  4. LeVar Burton’s keynote speech
    The keynotes are a big part of the RootsTech conference and the highlight for many was LeVar Burton’s speech on Friday morning.  The actor, best known for his roles as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Kunta Kinte in Roots, gave a truly heartwarming talk about his relationship with his mother, his African heritage and slavery in the United States.
  5. The exhibition hall
    If you’ve never been to RootsTech, you’ll struggle to comprehend how big it is! More than 30,000 people visited the exhibition hall during the 3 days of the show and there was never a quiet moment on the Twile booth. We spoke with so many customers and made some fantastic contacts with exhibiting brands (big and small), forming the seeds of some really promising partnerships.

And Twile appeared on Utah’s KSL News as the exhibition was getting set up:

RootsTech 2018 is on 28 February – 3 March and Twile will most certainly be there!

Did you visit RootsTech this year?  Please add a comment below to tell us what your personal highlights were.

 

 

Add your review of Twile in the FamilySearch App Gallery

If you are a FamilySearch user, we would really appreciate a review in the FamilySearch App Gallery.  This will help to let other FamilySearch users learn about Twile.

To read our reviews and leave a review yourself:

  1. Visit https://familysearch.org/apps/product/twile/web
  2. Scroll down and click the blue ‘Write a review’ button
  3. Log into FamilySearch if asked
  4. Scroll down, click 5 stars 🙂 and then enter the text for your review
  5. Click ‘Submit’

It takes a couple of minutes, but will be really helpful in raising our profile in the App Gallery and spreading the Twile word.

Thanks!

Timeline of Inventions

Twile now includes a timeline of the big inventions that have pushed the human race forward (or maybe backward in some cases).

Starting with the invention of the mechanical clock (circa 724), via the hot air balloon (1783), right up to the invention of the digital satellite radio in 2001, you can explore the progress of human innovation on a single visual timeline.

Did you know the first mobile phone was invented in 1973?  Or that people have been wearing eyeglasses since the 1200s?  Do you know who invented dynamite?

Take a look at our timeline of inventions at:  twile.com/timeline/inventions

What have we missed?  Is there a glaring omission that you’d like us to add?  Please add a comment below and we’ll jump straight on it!

Invite your family by text message

Because you may not always know their email addresses, you can now invite your family members by text message to join your Twile tree and explore your family timeline.

You can invite as many family members as you like to join Twile, which lets them explore your timeline and add their own milestones and photos for free.  We’re building Twile to help make family history more engaging and interesting for the wider family, so we encourage our customers to invite their family and let them see what you’ve built.

To invite your family by text message:

  1. Start at your Twile family tree
  2. Tap on or move your mouse over the person you wish to invite – a small popup menu appears
  3. Click the ‘Invite them’ option
  4. Enter a mobile number and/or email address
  5. Click ‘Send’

We will send them a message which includes a private link to join your tree.  They will be able to view what you’ve added to your timeline and tree and add their own content to the timeline.  They won’t be able to remove any of the people you’ve added to the tree or events you’ve added to the timeline.

Go ahead – share your Twile!

Family history in numbers

How much time and money do you spend researching your ancestors?  We surveyed family historians recently to see how much commitment it takes to build the family tree.

First of all we looked at when they started researching their family history. The common belief is that family historians are typically aged 50 or over.  For example, according to Ancestry Insider more than half of the attendees at the annual RootsTech genealogy conference in Salt Lake City are over 55 years old.

According to our survey however, the average age of starting to research family history is 40 years old, with 42% of our respondents having started before they were 40 – and a few beginning before they were 20.  So, while family history is typically considered a hobby for the retired, there is clearly some appetite for it in younger generations – look at the growing popularity of groups like NextGen, for example, who work to foster an interest in family history among the “next generation”.

We found that family historians spend more than 12 hours per week on their research, with more than a third spending 2 hours a day on average. 11% donate more than 4 hours a day to their hobby!  This includes time spent online in sites like Findmypast, FamilySearch and Ancestry, plus working in libraries or attending local groups.

And family historians spend $360 per year on their research on average.  Most of the large online genealogy services charge around $100-200 for an annual subscription.  Our survey respondents are either subscribing to more than one of these services or paying for extra records, society attendance fees or travel.

The amount of time and money that family history research requires, possibly explains why most people wait until they are 40 or older before starting.  Parents with young children will struggle to find the time (or energy) to dig through census records, birth certificates and black-and-white photos for clues about their ancestors.  But once the kids are older and more independent, those same parents will look for hobbies to fill their newly-found free time – genealogy is one of them.

Our mission at Twile is to make family history more engaging and accessible for the younger generations now.  If you’re keen to get the rest of your family interested in your hobby, import your years of research into Twile and share your timeline with them, for free.  Your commitment so far means that they will be able to explore your research easily, minimising the time and cost to them. They can contribute their own memories and photos too.  Sign up for free at www.twile.com.

How does your family history research compare with these numbers?  Add a comment below to tell us how much time you spend each week on your research or when you started showing an interest…

Flying the flag for Northern tech startups

While the tech industry in the North of the UK never seems to get the attention that London does, some recent successes for Northern startups show that innovation is alive and well outside of the capital.

The Queen and Duke of York at Pitch@Palace
The Duke of York introduces The Queen to the Pitch@Palace entrepreneurs
Last night, Twile was one of 42 UK startups that attended Pitch@Palace at St. James’s Palace in London – at the invitation of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York.  Pitching in front of The Queen and a room full of high profile investors and entrepreneurs, the overall winners were Drenched (first place) and Mobile Power (second) – both from Sheffield – and the People’s Choice award was won by Manchester-based OfferMoments.  As a Yorkshire business, we were immensely proud to see our fellow Northerners take the top prizes!

Meanwhile, the grand final of the Northern Stars competition is about to take place in Manchester on 17 November, showcasing some of the most innovative early-stage tech startups in the North of the UK.  Run by TechNorth, with finalists in a wide range of sectors – from eCommerce to finance to education – the competition is proof that the North has a lot to add to Britain’s technology economy.

The TechNorth delegation in Seattle
The TechNorth delegation in Seattle
In October, I was one of a small group of Northern entrepreneurs that joined TechNorth on a trip to the US west coast.  We visited San Francisco and Seattle to raise awareness of our region’s tech industry and learn a little about how things are done across the pond.  While San Francisco is the undisputed centre of the tech world, it was clear from this trip that the UK’s North is able to generate businesses that can compete on every level with those that spring up in Silicon Valley.  The ambition, creativity and potential of the startups I travelled with were really quite inspiring – and we felt more than comfortable among the entrepreneurs and investors we met along the way.

I’ve written before about the challenges of raising investment and profile in the North of the UK, but these recent successes for the region’s tech sector should help to close the gap.

Related articles

Twile visits the US west coast

Twile Wins Two Awards in the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2016

Twile integrates with FamilySearch

Twile Partners with Findmypast

 

Do more for free with Twile

Who says you don’t get anything for free?  From today, Twile’s free subscription allows you to add up to 10 milestones and 10 photos to your timeline every month.

Until now, only our paying customers could add content to their timeline, but we want to encourage everyone to record their family memories, even if that means adding just a few events from time to time.  We hope this free service will encourage the wider family to contribute, where they might not have had enough need to justify paying for it before.

Our mission at Twile is to make family history more engaging for the whole family, especially the younger generations, and Twile Free is an important step towards that goal.

Twile Free
Our free subscription now allows you to add up to 10 milestones (such as birth or marriage) and 10 photos to your family timeline every month.  You can also add any number of people to your family tree and invite any of them to explore and contribute.

Twile Premium
Our Twile Premium subscription allows you to add unlimited milestones and photos to your timeline and also lets you import your family tree and import photos from Facebook.  Twile Premium is £29.99 ($49.99) per year.

Twile Family
Everyone in your family can add unlimited milestones and photos when you subscribe to Twile Family.  One payment of £74.99 ($124.99) per year gives everyone on your family tree all of the benefits of Twile Premium. And they’ll love you for it!

For a full breakdown of what’s included in each subscription, take a look at our pricing page and when you’re ready to give Twile a go you can sign up for free at www.twile.com.

New Milestone Types: Military and Legal & Justice

We’ve just added a number of new milestone types to Twile, including two new categories: “Military” and “Legal & Justice”.

Milestones are events that you can add to your family timeline to tell the story of each person’s life.  Most people on your family tree will have key events like birth and marriage, but adding more detail can help you and the rest of your family understand what their life was really like.

Now you can add military milestones – such as conscription, awards or even court-martial – and legal milestones – such as arrest, sentencing and execution! We’ve also added a few extra milestones into other categories, such as wedding anniversary and blessing.

To add a milestone to your timeline:

  1. Login or register for Twile at www.twile.com
  2. Click the ‘Add’ button at the top of your timeline
  3. Click ‘Add milestone’
  4. Choose the type of milestone you’d like to add
  5. Choose the person you’re adding the milestone for, enter the date and other details
  6. Click the ‘Add’ button to save the new event

Watch our video for an overview:

All of the new milestones we’ve added have been requests and suggestions from our customers, so please keep those ideas coming – you can add a comment to this blog post or send us an email to help@twile.com.