It was about a year ago that I ran head first into a pole while walking and texting down a busy street in Manhattan. Embarrassed by the incident and frustrated by how much work it takes to have a real and spontaneous conversation, I began thinking there's got to be a better way to talk with my friend. Making things more complicated was the fact that he lived in Sweden. Being an ex-pat from Portugal, making international phone calls is an experience I was familiar enough with to know to avoid as much as possible. High cost, poor audio quality, and scheduling something that works with both of our timezones felt neither spontaneous nor casual. I then looked through my call history and found many back and forth missed calls that reminded me why I text everyone in the first place.
It seems that in today's world communication is easy, yet there is still little human connection. Social networks go far in keeping up-to-date with others' curated lives, but do little to encourage genuine conversation. Phone calls enable a lot of emotion and nuance needed to really feel close to someone, but the fast, asynchronous (albeit impersonal) nature of text messages make them much more convenient. In our busy lives, a healthy mix of all of the above is needed to really stay in touch with the people we care about.
The missing ingredient
The people in my life are all unique in their own way. However, they sound about the same over text message. Emoji, stickers, and other such features are a layer on top of messaging, and an attempt to introduce emotion into chat, but ultimately their use still follows the same patterns and norms across conversations. I believe the capture of each person's subtleties is an essential component of real, personal communication, and is an obvious advantage of voice over written text. But beyond the expressiveness of voice, there is another trait that is virtually incomparable. And that is empathy.
Beyond an explicit exchange of information, context around each others' lives is a concept that has thus far been ignored. A glance at the weather app shows me that it is late evening Barcelona, where it is currently raining. A beautiful animation of storm clouds and raindrops brings to mind my own time living there and my friends who still do. And all of a sudden, it's like peeking out of a small window into a place far away, that now feels that much closer. Subtle experiences like this are to me what empathy is all about and communication should feel the same.
Innovation is no easy task. People won't ask for what they don't already know, and often won't even understand it until they can't live without it.
Combining the advantages of existing mediums, innovating on top of that using the full capabilities of today's technology, and wrapping it up in a simple, easy to use interface with a no-nonsense sign up process is an ambitious goal, but a worthy one.
Motivated by it, I left my position as the new markets growth lead of Spotify to focus on exactly that. And that's how Roger came to be. Whether or not the world will start talking again, remains to be seen. As for me, I'm just happy I haven't walked into poles since.
CEO & Co-Founder of Roger