“If you’re careful and quiet enough, the product will tell you where it is it wants to go.”
– Ralf Groene (Microsoft)
It was in June 3 years ago that I started writing the first lines of code for what would eventually become Maple. The plan at the time was to have it built and launched within a year. Reality, that ever formidable foe, had other ideas.
To be fair, what we set out to build was done in that first year, but along the way the scope of what we wanted Maple to be kept organically growing. The core concept never changed (“one place for everything on your mind”), but we seemed to keep coming up with new and different ways to define what “everything” is.
This is how Maple has been, though, ever since the first brainstorming meeting.
It was May of 2015. Chris and I were tired of consulting for clients that seemed apathetic to our advice, and so we were trying to figure out what direction we wanted to take our company. Chris’ background is varied, but mine centered around building software. So it seemed logical to create an app in a space she was an expert in.
I remember asking Chris if there was anything she was looking for that she couldn’t find in the App stores. Being an avid personal growth advocate and lifelong coach, she mentioned that she had been looking for a place to put the work she did in online courses and self-study books, because she couldn’t remember all the passwords she had used or where she had left the paper she had written answers on.
At first I didn’t see the benefit. “Why not use a notebook or One Note?” I asked her.
“There’s no way to find specific ideas that way”, she replied. “I want to find stuff by author, or when I did the work, or by topic.”
I was still hesitant, not because it didn’t seem like a good idea, but because it wasn’t something I thought I’d use. I’ve never had the patience for self-help books. I’ve always been a more hands-on learner. But what she said she needed did seem like a familiar problem to me. I had a big Word document filled with quotes that had inspired me over the years, and a fancy spiral notebook on my desk I’d handwritten some of the ones I thought were the funniest or most poignant. Neither was searchable or categorizable, and I never spent the time to go back and peruse the quotes I’d gathered. They were literally gathering dust on my desk.
“What if we expanded that idea and added a place to put quotes?” I suggested. Now we might have something I’d be able to use, not just build.
It was Chris’ turn to be reticent. “I’m not sure that ties in to the original idea. It’s like two separate apps.”
Without skipping a beat, I argued that they were similar ideas because both were thought-provoking blocks of text that people wanted to be able to go back and review. In retrospect I may have been BS-ing a little, but once I had the idea I really wanted a place in which to store my Quotes.
Surprisingly, Chris jumped on the idea. “What if we made an app that is for everything on your mind, so that putting it all in one place could help trigger insights about what’s important to you?”
That instantly sounded right to both of us. And so, in that first meeting Maple bloomed from a seed of thought into a mission statement. Over the next few weeks I designed the data model, and the following month I started writing the code.
Along the way, our mission to help people achieve insights about themselves and the ideas that are important to them continued to grow. We added Thoughts, Notes, Journals, and Reflections (or: prompted journals). Chris insisted that the ability to track Sleep and Stress was important to generating personal health insights (she was right, ask any health coach), so we added Trackers. We even built a mechanism to allow people to share their Stuff with trusted Thought Partners, because we realized that sometimes the best insights come from someone else (if you’re willing to share and listen).
For me, the lesson here is to never dismiss an idea outright without exploring it first. If you push and pull a little, you might end up with an idea that has legs. And when it starts sprouting branches and leaves on its own, you know you’ve got something worth pursuing.
The list of what we still want to bring you is still growing, and we’re working on all of it. Keep an eye out for new feature announcements in the coming months. If you haven’t tried Maple yet, give it a shot – you might find something there you never knew you needed. And to everyone else: Happy Mapling!
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