OhLife’s Daily E-Mails Motivate a New Wave of Online Diarists

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personal and private, which makes it the virtual opposite of blogging. Writing for yourself, Gupta points out, doesn’t require as much thought or caution as writing in full public view. “I wouldn’t put any of my entries out in public,” he says. “Not out of embarrassment or shame—it’s just that everyone else would find them so mundane.”

Word about OhLife has spread entirely by word of mouth. “I think people really like the design, which has gone a long way for us,” says Gupta. “We’re putting a lot of effort into simplifying how it works.” The fact that entries are secret means OhLife’s content is, in a sense, anti-viral—so the startup isn’t benefiting from the usual social media boost that it might get if, say, the whole service were a Facebook app with entries visible to friends. But “people are constantly tweeting about it” nonetheless, Gupta says.

For now, Child and Gupta aren’t anxious to monetize OhLife; expenses are low, consisting mainly of storage and bandwidth. Premium subscriptions providing extra storage space for photos or even video diary entries could be one possible revenue stream. Targeted ads inserted into the daily e-mail prompts are another idea. “We have permission to e-mail our users every single day,” Gupta points out. “You could put an ad into that, and people probably won’t mind. Having that 25 percent ‘love’ goes in our favor a bit.”

The startup is working to raise a round of seed funding, but since “the core feature set is pretty solid,” in Gupta’s words, much of the money will probably go to marketing and distribution rather than product development. “The more money you raise, the more you can pay to acquire users through ads,” he says.

Through OhLife, Child and Gupta have been getting validation of the kind that escaped them with Expensr, ididwork.com, and MeetingMix. “We’ve been getting quite a few e-mails from people who never thought they would journal, but it’s so easy now that they have no reason not to,” says Child.

Even engineers from OhLife’s fellow Y Combinator startups are using OhLife, Gupta says. And perhaps most gratifying of all, the service seems to have a therapeutic benefit for some users. Says Gupta: “We’ve had people e-mail in who said they were depressed, and just the act of using OhLife and trying to write each day about something good that happened improved their spirits tremendously.” That’s the kind of pain point more startups should be trying to address.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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