As a female-founded company, we’re particularly passionate about this month’s upcoming International Women’s Day, celebrating the incredible social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide. In recognizing the work of brilliant and brave women everywhere, we’re thrilled to bring our very own fearless female founder, Jennifer, to the forefront.
What’s your name, where are you from, and what do you do?
My name is Jennifer - originally from South Africa. I am the mother of two adult children and the creator of one pretty great app called Keepster.
Where did you find the inspiration for Keepster?
It was Valentine’s Day. My guy is a wonderful writer - brilliant really, and I was inspired to create some sort of keepsake out of our thousands of texts. I assumed there'd be a simple solution to make such a gift, I was wrong. The technology wasn’t really there, the options were limited, so I handmade the book myself: quite literally printing out our texts and gluing them by hand. Exhausted, ink smudged hands, bits of glue stuck for good...I insisted there had to be a better way. So, I set out to create one.
Have you always wanted to keep your text messages in some way? Where does that desire come from?
I’ve always been fascinated by the art form of letter writing, really. I would visit museums and libraries and land up poring over old letters and become transfixed by the way they captured moments in time. Invariably I’d leave and text someone about my experience, my day, my travels. The idea that such messages really are our modern-day letters wasn’t lost on me. I started to toy with the idea of ‘doing more with these messages’. A dear friend passed away suddenly and her adult children expressed the small comfort they took in having pieces of her love for them, her wisdom, her persona, her joy all tucked in their texting conversations - and it hit me. I too had my own thread with her that I would never want to part with. I realized we have so much life right there in our messages - our modern-day letters, that truly we ought to be doing more with them.
Speaking of texting, who is the last person you texted?
My daughter! She just came back from Europe and we hadn’t caught up, as soon as she landed we were reconnecting - I’m a mother, I wanted every detail!
Favorite or most used emoji?
(Laughing) The crazy smiley face! It makes me laugh every time I use it, so of course, I use it all the time. 🤪
Last time a text made you laugh?
Oh, this morning! Most every day.
What’s your background? You must be a techie
(Laughing) Oh, no. I have absolutely zero tech experience prior to this. I was a jewelry designer by trade, creating one-of-a-kind pieces out of unusual semi-precious stones, natural pearls, geodes. I loved working with these unique pieces of nature. I guess I have always been creating...
With Keepster, it was an idea that I simply knew I had to make a reality - so I jumped right in, into this wild and crazy world that I knew absolutely nothing about. With no background, I mean zero background, It was like learning a whole new language. But I had this unshakeable determination to see it succeed, I still do!
Looking back, I realize that I was in this ridiculously 'unique' position in the Launch Incubator - I was totally naive. But the gift of innocence is strength. I totally believed in what we had created and in the technology behind it. I was also old enough to have been the mother of everyone else in the incubator group. Humbling! And unusual to say the least. But in retrospect, it makes me feel even more proud to be here.
What has been the most surprising part of creating something like Keepster and being a part of this tech world?
How much I love it. How vast it is - it’s like stepping into another universe, but oddly, I can’t get enough of it. I always want to learn more, more, more.
When did you know you’d created something special in Keepster?
I feel lucky - there've been quite a few moments that made me think Ah ha, we’ve done something really cool. The two most recent I can think of are the incredibly moving review we just received from a super happy customer who made this massive 800-page Keepster book for his girlfriend's big birthday. And then this past holiday season when we had heaps of customers contacting us like crazy to be sure that their Keepster books would make it to them on time - all of which did!. But still, just from sensing how important it was to so many people to give these books as special gifts felt so incredible to all of us at Keepster.
Do you have a favorite Keepster book you created?
I do! A gift for a crazy friend I adore. Because we’re both South African, our texts are an endless stream of the absolute worst South African slang. No one else could possibly understand it but us. She loved it.
Has Keepster changed the way YOU text?
Absolutely. I try to always text like it matters, now, because it does.
Do you have another app you couldn’t live without?
I love AUDM. It’s a whole selection of really fabulous and important articles - read aloud by narrators. It’s the world’s most brilliant thing. Oh, and Waze.
So where can you be found, most days?
In front of my computer! Working on Keepster. Nonstop, really, but again, I love it.
How do you unwind and unplug?
Gardening! It’s my therapy. You should see me - I’m digging, all scratched up, hair wild, it’s cathartic. Because I live in California, I’m very into California native plants: anything drought tolerant. I’ve recently started planting more to encourage hummingbirds and butterflies to visit and be happy in my garden - I find it oddly thrilling.
Do you have a favorite author?
Elena Ferrante. I’m pretty obsessed. I think every woman should read her work.
Podcasts or TV?
I’m a bit of a news junky, I don’t really care where it comes from. I just don’t have the time to read the papers.
Favorite place to travel?
Ah, impossible to pick. If I had to say, it’d be a tie between India and Morocco.
Last show you binge-watched?
Oh! Yes, yes, yes. “Fleabag”, “The Crown”. And "The Bureau", a French one. Brilliant
Drink of choice?
Milky, sweet tea - a nod to my childhood. Some of my earliest memories include milky, sugary tea in a glass bottle! If I’m winding down, I love a gin and tonic. With lots and lots of fresh lime.
How many pictures do you have on your iPhone right now?
25,000 or so. Mostly snapshots of my kids, my family, my travels - anything that inspires me that I come across, too many sunsets, and plants, of course. I’m obsessed.
Last time you made a Keepster back up?
I refreshed my Keepster backup 4 days ago.
If you could only use 3 emojis to communicate, what would they be?
Ah. The crazy smiley face, the heart, the hug...and okay the devil face. That’s 4. Sorry.
If you weren’t creating an app, what would you be doing professionally?
Travel journalist, hands down. I’m travel obsessed - slipping into crowds of unfamiliar faces, listening to languages I can’t yet speak, observing people and their unique cultures, it’s life-altering. I imagine I’d be exploring the edges of the earth, writing down every little detail I can.
What do your children think of Keepster?
They’re politely patient with me. They’re incredulous. And only recently I realized that they are also proud. At my last birthday party, my son actually stood up and gave a speech about how proud he was of me - for taking on something like this, but also for all the hard work that it takes. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life, really. Also, when they have the time they give me great advice...I wish they had more time!
In 2020, Keepster will…
Take over the world! (Laughs) No, in all reality, all that we’re doing, we’ll triple. We’ll unveil. We’ll grow. I’m excited.
Words to live by?
In all things, both personal and professional: little steps.
Founder / CEO