As you walk up the stairs in Mentor’s cosy two-level annex apartment, it’s easy to be startled by a large picture of an astronaut on the wall which at first glance looks like someone coming the other way. It’s pretty appropriate, really, given how the Mentor team speak about setting themselves a mission.
Their first product, which they have dubbed the ‘anti-to-do list’, was launched on Friday into the App Store after a year in development. It’s designed to help people achieve their goals – doing what they want to do, not what they have to do.
It’s a heady aim, and the app has certainly shifted focus since it went into closed beta in January with more than a thousand testers from 22 countries. For example, originally it was envisaged for users to have specific mentors who would encourage them. But the idea of individual Mentor-Mentee relationships is now gone, with everyone in the community acting as both.
The whole product – which is mobile only – is based around the idea of social context. In the workplace, you have constant interaction with colleagues and feedback from superiors which leads you into doing what is required. That effect, according to Mentor, has not been organised and leveraged for your passions and ambitions – until now.
Users name specific goals – learning a language, say, or eating healthier – and they keep track of their various activities, sharing their progress and mentoring each other. They can choose from a user-generated database of actions and create their a list of things they want to do more regularly. They then document what they do with comments and photos and share them with the community.
The missions stems from the team, three of whom went to school together at the famous Thomasschule in Leipzig, one of the world’s oldest, with one – Jeremias Wolf – singing in the internationally renowned Thomanerchor. He, Philipp Merlin Scharff and Niclas Rohrwacher were later joined at university by a fourth, Lukas Kampfmann. Having come up with the idea for Mentor, on graduation day the group set themselves a deadline of May 1, 2012, when anyone who wanted to commit to the project would gather on the roof of their Berlin apartment at noon. Naturally, they all showed up.
Lukas, now the CEO, told Silicon Allee: “The problem that we are trying to tackle here is behavioural change. That’s an immensely difficult problem because people are entrenched in their routines and so in order to solve that problem we had to go through a number of iterations. We’re still learning about the solution of the problem every single day – but the idea behind Mentor has been the same since day one, and that is that we can change people’s behaviors through social context.”
The idea is to connect people with similar goals in order to make the process of achieving things smoother. “We create a group of people with a purpose,” Lukas added, “ambitious people that have things they want to work on and they can do it together, it’s much more efficient and fun.”
Monetisation comes from the activities associated with the goals – “ Mentor is a backdrop and framework, but Mentor in itself can’t be everything” – through deals with companies in the different verticals; for example gym membership for people wanting to get fitter or cookery books for those wanting to eat healthier. The team is also toying with the idea of a points-based rewards system.
The company was founded in July 2012 and is based in the Factory. It closed an angel round last summer involving JMES, Felix Petersen (Amen), Matthias Spiess (Spreadshirt) and Frank Riedel.