Kitestring started as a labor of love. In 2014, Stephan Boyer, a grad student at MIT in Cambridge, MA, wanted to make sure his girlfriend got home safely while walking home through a dicey neighborhood in San Francisco. Boyer set out to build an app that let her set the duration for her walk home and check in via SMS once she was home.
No one wants to wait a second longer for the text message confirming their loved one is safe, or worry their message wasn’t delivered. Boyer knew this firsthand. When he took his app to market, he chose to use Twilio SMS to ensure timely and reliable message delivery.
Boyer’s early goals for Kitestring were simple: give his family and friends an easy to way to check in and make sure each other is safe. But, he saw how the public could benefit from the peace of mind Kitestring offers, and took the service to the masses. On February 2, 2014, Boyer brought his app to market in just 4 days.
At first only a few small blogs covered Kitestring’s launch. But over the course of launch week, the story was quickly syndicated and shared until media giants TechCrunch, Elle Magazine, and Mashable all picked up the story. Boyer’s customer base went from a few friends and family members to 10,000 in less than 7 days, and surpassed 80,000 over the next few months.
To get started, users create an account on Kitestring’s website and enter their phone number. Then they get an SMS with a verification code which they enter on the account setup page. Once the account is setup, users enter in their emergency contacts’ phone numbers.
To use Kitestring’s emergency notification solution, a users sends an SMS to the same phone number from which they received the account verification code, during the account setup process. In that SMS, the user specifies how many minutes a task they are about to embark in should take. If a user fails to respond to Kitestring’s check-in SMS 5 minutes after their trip is up, Kitestring will automatically contact the user’s emergency contacts using Twilio SMS.
Boyer stuck to an SMS-based app so anyone, smartphone or not, could use Kitestring. During one of its busiest months to date, Kitestring sent over 117,000 messages to users. Reliability of messaging and easy scalability were critical to keeping the company growing after its big user spike. During the launch, Boyer didn’t have to worry about updating any call center hardware or signing a new contract with an SMS vendor to accommodate his new users. Those delays would have cost valuable time and users. Using Twilio’s platform, Boyer was confident he could scale effortlessly and build new features for Kitestring easily. “The Twilio API for us has been super easy to implement. It was really easy to build Kitestring on top of it,” said Boyer.
While the Kitestring team is delighted to have an expanding customer base, and a platform that can grow with its demand, they know that the service is truly measured in reliability. Timing is everything for Kitestring. Users expect to receive text messages prompting them to confirm their safety the moment their Kitestring trip is up. Then they’ll have 5 minutes to check in via SMS to confirm their safe. If Kitestring fails to send the check in to the user promptly, or process the user’s check-in confirmation of safety, they could trigger a false alarm or worse, fail to respond to a real one. “First and foremost we needed something super reliable,” said Boyer.
Now as Kitestring is expanding into new markets, and growing its user base, the staff has jumped from one to three. Kitestring is now live US, UK, and continuing to expand.
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