Souheil Medaghri grew up in an eastern neighborhood of Paris with his two friends, Arnaud Ferreri and Julien Dao [all pictured above]. They did typical kid stuff: play video games, listen to music, chase girls.
But as they grew up and went off to college, the joie de vivre seemed to ebb out of their day-to-day routines. They earned business degrees and, as young, handsome denizens of a global metropolis, seemed assured of successful careers.
“But we realized that our plans for the future were super boring,” Medaghri said in an interview with VentureBeat. “We were not really happy about going to work, working for big consulting firms, going home, and watching YouTube videos. We realized most of the people around the world had this boring routine, so we wanted to find a way to spice it up.”
The trio’s answer to Gen Y malaise is Onefeat, a simple, prettily designed iPhone app that helps you find and appreciate the beautiful within the mundane. We ran into the team at i/o Ventures‘ recent demo day in San Francisco, where they were showing off the app and drumming up investment money from angels and VCs. Medaghri told us he and the fellas want to leave Paris for good and move to California to build their app into a real startup.
Right now, what they have is an infectiously cheerful digital toy that makes life a game. It encourages you to do things that are good for your mind, heart, and soul: to hug your family members, to ponder the meaning of life, to run around in the sunshine. And the more of these “missions” you do out in the real world, the more in-game points you earn.
“All you have to do is to send a picture of yourself doing the mission to get points,” said Medaghri. “We want to build the ultimate stage for the greatest experiences you can live in your life.”
Once you earn enough points, you can start creating missions and assigning point values yourself.
Here are some screenshots from the app, showing the various “challenges” or “missions” users can complete and how they are rewarded:
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“As you grow up, you sometimes forget how the world is full of opportunities,” Medaghri told us. “So you spend your money on buying things while the best things in life are still the experiences. An experience is something so simple, so pure, anybody in the world can live. We wanted to create the main stage for it.”
He and his team dream of creating an augmented reality where people are recognized not for being rich or popular but for being purely awesome — for growing a legendary mustache, for being spontaneous, for knowing how and when and why to have fun. And a lot of that is up for interpretation.
“For example, we have this mission called ‘Bring the sexy back,’ where the goal is to be as sexy as you can,” the co-founder said. “You have obviously this cute girl that is the champion, but you also have this guy who cut the word ‘SEXY’ into a piece of cardboard and brought it back to a customer service desk. There were these kids who copied the poses of the cute girl in the exact same way. Almost. And this is hilarious.
“People are so full of creativity when you challenge them and you give them a stage to express themselves.”
As previously mentioned, all three of the young co-founders have business degrees; their interest in technology, while never formally cultivated at university, existed long before they trudged off to business school. Ferreri has been building websites since he was 14; he learned Objective-C in just a few weeks’ time. And Medaghri called Dao “a design genius” who acquired his fresh, pop-perfect style during years of video gaming and watching MTV.
“But most of the things we learned, we taught ourselves online,” said Medaghri. “What’s important is that we don’t have this strong geek culture. We’re just normal kids who wanted to make an awesome product our friends could have fun with.”
It’s good, clean fun, and the team’s onstage demo leaves us with a smile (and this correspondent never smiles at startup demos, ever). With such a warm glow cascading through the aorta of our cold, cold, editorial heart, we almost hate to ask the cliched but inevitable question: How will Onefeat make money on this feel-good app?
“There are tons of possibilities for making money,” Medaghri responded, like a good startup founder should. He outlines a few possibilities, such as brand-sponsored missions (Onefeat recently did a test with CBS for a horror flick launch).
“However, we stopped the monetization to focus on the product,” he said.”We want to deliver the best experience for our players to have fun. Even if someday, we’ll get people to win real things, it won’t be just products or coupons (we think coupons kind of suck) but mostly unique experiences.”
And just like that, Medaghri showed us that our genuine smile and the happiness that brought it is his startup’s chief concern.
“Nothing would make us happier than delivering fantastic experiences to our players.”