We've all gone through the horror of sending an embarrassing text message we couldn't get back. After dealing with this headache a few times too many, 28 year-old entrepreneur Maci Peterson set out to find a solution that would allow her to edit or delete text messages even before they reach the recipient. In 2014, she co-founded On Second Thought, the mobile app allowing users to recall their texts and so much more.
Since launching, the app has saved many people from the embarrassment of misspelled messages and the late night drunken texts we usually have no business sending. We caught up with Maci to find out more about her app, its features, and how it came to be.
OBWS: Can you tell us more about On Second Thought and how it works?
MP: It’s really easy to use. After you download it from the Google Play store, you set our app as your default SMS messenger. That’s just so that all texts that show up on your phone go to our app, so no matter what text message chain you’re in, you have the option to recall your messages. In the app settings you have an option where you can set your grace period up to 60 seconds. For example, mine is set at 6 seconds, so after I send a text message I have 6 seconds to get my message back and edit it or delete it all together. We also have a curfew in the settings. If you know you’re going out that night and that you’ll have a bit too much liquid courage, you can turn on the curfew time so that all of the messages you send after that time get held until the next morning.
OBWS: I love it. So what influenced you to create the app?
MP: For me, one of my ex boyfriends had been calling me but for some reason I just kept missing his calls, and so what I had written was “Hey! For some reason I keep missing your calls” but autocorrect changed it to “Hey! For some reason I keep missing your balls” (laughs). Which is not what I intended to send, especially since he was my ex boyfriend. So the natural reaction is to start slamming your fingers against the phone and nothing happens. After that I did a search in the app store and on google but there was nothing there that would allow me to take back my text messages. A while later I found out about a pitch contest at SXSW. I applied and after a series of miracles and tons of prayer, we made it to SXSW and I won first place in the competition. That was the validation we needed that not only was it a good idea and a viable product, but it was also a viable business.
OBWS: So as soon as I heard about On Second Thought I wanted to download it myself but I have an iPhone. Are there any plans to expand to iOS?
MP: We will. The iPhone app will be available this fall. You can actually sign up for beta now. (Sign up HERE)
OBWS: How did you go about developing the app? Did you outsource?
MP: No, so my background is in business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. I brought on two partners, one who leads development and one who leads design.
OBWS: Did you face any major difficulties getting it up?
MP: Definitely. (laughs) We actually developed the app twice. The first time, the code was a mess and we couldn’t release it to the public. It took 6 months to build that code. The second time we did it in 6 weeks and released it to the public after that. That’s the simplest way of putting it (laughs). I would say the most important take-away from that is have the right team. My initial team was different from the team I have now. The second most important thing is to have the right developers. You need to know who your developers are and who is working on your project. Don’t take the easy way out or try to cut costs by outsourcing. It’ll end up costing you a lot more in the end. If we had gotten that the first time we would’ve saved ourselves a lot of time and money.
OBWS: So how did you go about choosing your team the second time around?
MP: My partner who leads development, he and I actually met while we were in college at a Christian conference and we’ve been best friends since. My other partner, I initially hired him as a contractor and upon our first conversation I was like 'this guy gets it!' Not only does he understand where we are but he also understands where we’re going and had ideas for vision. When you’re finding partners you need people who can see the vision. He turned out to be a rockstar when it came to design. He also brings a major asset in terms of the market acquisition for the app.
OBWS: So it seems like black women are underrepresented in the tech industry. Since starting the app, how do you feel about the diversity in the tech industry?
MP: I think there’s room for improvement for black people, just in general. I applaud the tech industry because when you think about it, the technological revolution we’re facing right now is fairly new. It started in the early '90s, so now we’re about 25 years into it and realizing that there’s a major problem in terms of lack of representation of women as well as African Americans, Latinos, etc. And so it took them 25 years to realize that. When you look at other industries like banking, and law, and medicine, it took them hundreds of years to bring black people to the table. For instance, my dad was an attorney. He was the first African American at his firm to make partner after 125 years… in the '80s. So 25 years versus 125 years… I think the tech industry is making major strides in realizing that they have a problem with diversity and trying to find solutions to solve it. At least there’s attention to the fact that there’s a gap. They’re also intentionally trying to equip African Americans and women with the skills they need to succeed in the industry.
OBWS: So at this point in your journey, are you a full time entrepreneur? If so, how long did it take for you to make that leap?
MP: I am a full time entrepreneur. I’ve been full time since April. On Second Thought is actually really young. We launched in December so we’ve only been in the market for 7 months and we've made a lot of progress since. I went on full time after 4 months in the market place.
OBWS: I’m sure it was a nerve-wracking leap to let go of the stability of your previous job and become a full time entrepreneur.
MP: Actually, no. I was at Marriott International doing brand management and innovation work for them and I actually had a lot of peace about leaving. I have a really strong prayer life so I knew that this was something God wanted me to do full time. I also knew that He was going to take care of it and, sure enough, since my first full day with On Second Thought, I have been insanely busy (laughs). I left Marriott before we even closed our friends and family round. We closed on $100,000 in a few days. So for those who are wondering about it, my biggest thing is to pray about it. And if it’s something God wants you to do, trust that He’ll take care of it.
OBWS: How did financing work for you?
MP: We did friends and family and we also won first place in the “Women Do Tech” startup challenge and that had prize money attached to it as well. We’re currently raising our seed round from institutional investors and we've had a few commitments and a lot of interests. That will close on September 30th.
OBWS: What advice would you give other African American entrepreneurs who are trying to get into app development?
MP: Do it (laughs). I mean, for anyone, if it’s something that you feel called to do, do it. Why risk the chance of wondering what if? For me, I knew that I would be really upset if someone made a multi-billion dollar company out of recalling text messages. You just have to do it. If you succeed, amazing. If you fail, at least you know that you gave it your best shot. But you owe it to yourself to at least try.
OBWS: I know you said you guys are going to open this up to apple products in the fall, are there any other future plans for On Second Thought? And do you have any other professional goals outside of this?
MP: We have a long roadmap of things we’re developing within the app. What we’ve realized is that we’ve actually created a recall technology, so we’re going after that and the many different ways that you can recall mistakes in mobile communication. We’re also working on international expansion, especially in Africa. South Africa and Kenya are two of our largest markets internationally. So we’re really going after that and we have a feature we’re building that will greatly benefit people living throughout Africa, in general. We’re looking into expansion into the Caribbean and we already have a footprint in Europe and India.
In terms of long-term, this is going to keep me busy for a while and I really don’t know what’s next. I say that because when I was younger I wanted to make movies for a while, and then I wanted to be a photographer, and I thought I wanted to be an attorney. Life changes and opportunities come up that become more attractive than the plan we had. My next thing is to do whatever God calls me to do next.