FoundIt! is a lost and found service with one simple goal: getting your valuable possessions back. FoundIt! uses unique sticker tags to make it easy for someone to find and return your lost item. The process is simple. When someone finds your lost item, tagged with a FoundIt! sticker, they can call or text that number, or go to FoundIt.com and report the item. You will then be notified by FoundIt!, and can decide how to meet up with the person who found your lost item.
FoundIt! Co-Founder Katie Bandstra, talked with us about FoundIt, altruism, and the company’s unlikely beginning.
What is the philosophy behind FoundIt!? Are you uncovering the good in people?
Something we’ve all shared, no matter who you are, is that you’ve lost something at some point in your life. We’ve all felt that pang in our stomach, the panic of looking for it, the elation when we recover it. FoundIt! taps into those emotions and moves people to do a simple good deed when they find something with a FoundIt! tag on it.
Our members are given a unique FoundIt! ID and ways to label their stuff with stickers and tags. We’re focused on our members by protecting their personal information and giving them a way to get their misplaced items back. But, we’re also very focused on the finders. Without them, we wouldn’t exist.
Baseline research proves that 70% of items are turned in, somewhere, you just don’t know where. A University of Michigan study found that if you make it easy, the return rate goes up. A Purdue University study showed that if you allow people to remain anonymous, and if the finder had an inkling that the item was important to the owner, that they returned found items more often.Based on all this research we designed our service.
We make it very easy to report a Found item either via SMS or our website. They have the opportunity to leave a message for the member and remain anonymous. But, most importantly, our sticker and tag language elicits an emotional response. It not only shows the finder that the item is something important to the member, that it isn’t just an item, but also reminds them of when they lost something in the past. For example, “Uh oh! Looks like my owner is locked out! Please help!” for our key tags. “You’re my hero!” and “Help me home!” on our stickers. At the very least, it humanizes the object for the finder and at the extreme it becomes their “Rosebud.”
So yes, we believe people are human and for the vast majority they’re good, especially if they can relate to the situation and the action they need to take is easy.
How did FoundIt! get started?
We like to say, it all started in the back of a cab with an Economics Professor and a text message. Our founder’s daughter left her photography portfolio in the back of a cab never to be seen again. His wife left her brand new camera in another taxi two weeks later. He started to think there had to be a way to label his family’s stuff without putting their name, cell phone and email address on everything. FoundIt! was born.
FoundIt! gives everyone a unique FoundIt! ID and ways to label their most precious stuff. When something is found, the Finder either texts or enters the FoundIt! ID into our system and we instantly send the member a Found Alert via text and email with the finder’s contact info and/or message.
What technologies is FoundIt! built on and how do you use Twilio?
• PHP 5.2.x – Open Source scripting language used to develop the FoundIt web application.
• MySql 5.x – Open Source relational database used to store all application data.
• QCodo – Open Source PHP Application Development Framework
• Phing – Open Source PHP Build Tool used to dynamically create the deployable application
• Eclipse – Open Source Development UI
• SVN – Open Source Code Repository use for source control
• Linux – Open Source operating system hosting the production application
• Apache – Open Source Web Server
We use Twilio to receive FoundIt! Reports and send FoundIt! Alerts via SMS. (Finders can text the FoundIt! ID into our system and then we always text and email our members with a FoundIt! Alert.)
Why does FoundIt! use Twilio?
Our developer was adamant about using Twilio. After using your services for over a year, I know why. Our SMS service is always up and running. We never need to think about it. My developer said that Twilio is a true engineering company. When you build something, you build it the right way. You provide excellent APIs and you’re priced affordably. Twilio enables small business and startups like FoundIt! to offer outstanding SMS technology at a fair price. It gives us a competitive advantage.
What kind of return rate do you see with lost items?
We lose stuff on purpose all the time. We’re not doing any double-blind, professionally researched testing, but our range of recovery is from 88% to 96%. Our recovery rate is trending upwards with the new “emotional” language we’ve incorporated on our stickers and tags.
What’s next for Foundit?
Our goal is that FoundIt! becomes ubiquitous. If someone across the room, sees a lonely notebook on a table and sees our logo, they know they can easily return it. To get to that point, we’re partnering with community organizations, businesses and like-minded individuals to not only provide value-added services, but also help spark local projects. Our corporate solutions, co-branded loyalty programs and FoundIt! Community Project are all starting to take off and make waves.
But for us, in the end, we’re all neighbors. When people expect good to happen, they make good happen. FoundIt! makes it easy to do the right thing. When we see how rewarding it can be to help our neighbors, we’re inspired to do more in the future. We are fostering a culture of returning, one sticker at a time.