Gavin Uhma is a bit of a legend in the local tech community. He’s the Halifax-via-Cape Breton guy who invented GoInstant, “co-browsing” software so good that it was bought in 2012 by the giant Salesforce.com, for a reported $70 million. After a stint with Salesforce that ended last October, his new business Sidestory just launched its namesake app in the iPhone App Store last week.
Sidestory is one of the start-ups with space at the Volta Labs hub in the Maritime Centre. Its sixth-floor office is simple and clean, dominated by a block of desks. Sitting at a corner beside the window, chief technology officer Ben Decoste is behind a giant monitor working on the app’s Android version. Beside him is designer Brian Jeffcock, responsible for Sidestory’s remarkably simple, clean interface. Opposite Jeffcock is Uhma, giving a visitor tips on the app’s features. This is the entire Sidestory team, on a mission to change the way the world uses their phones. No big deal.
“We think storytelling is important. We think privacy is important. We think honesty is important" —Gavin Uhma
Sidestory has a unique approach to sharing that exists at the intersection of two of the most popular types of apps, social media and messaging. Social media like Facebook and Instagram may be great at letting you share your life, but its goal of sharing with absolutely everyone leads to more curated, less honest posts. And while messaging is good for direct connections, its focus is on the short and pithy—Snapchat being a leading proponent in thinking of your life as disposable content.
“We don’t want that future,” says Uhma. With Sidestory, you can “create meaningful content, content worth keeping, but be selective about who is goes to.”
If you’ve got Sidestory, you can compose a “story”—adding photos, text or video is all pretty intuitive—and email or text it to anyone, even if they don’t have the app: The system will send a link for viewing your story online. And in a considerate bit of design, if that person does later get Sidestory, that story will appear in their archive for posterity. From the original group of 16 test users, Sidestory’s growth has been organic, word-of-mouth. not driven by marketing campaigns. “People are using the app because they like it,” Uhma says. “That’s super, super-validating for us.”