Who doesn’t have smartphones anymore? What if we built something for them? That was the thought behind New Yorkers Mark Webster, Aaron Foss and Ben Nadel’s project at the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon this weekend, but they took it a step further: They created Joinable.org, a service for people who don’t have smartphones, and often don’t have phones at all–the homeless.
Joinable lets non-profits set up email, voicemail and text messages that can be checked by dialing an 800 number, so non-profits can stay in touch with their homeless beneficiaries. They were able to use the voice and SMS support provided by Twilio–which has signed on as a sponsor, giving them enough credits to run “a reasonable beta”–to create a low-cost product that they plan to run as a break-even business serving non-profits.
Mr. Webster worked at a tech firm that provided support to non-profits, and he remembers feeling uncomfortable with making money off of them. “I was there during the tsunami, and I remember conversations about it being an opportunity and it felt a bit creepy,” he said.
The team plans to build out the app in another 20-hour marathon coding session and run it out of their software development shop, Kickstart Concepts. They’ve already gotten inquiries from non-profits across the country–they’re also considering working with disaster relief organizations, as it’s been suggested to them that victims of the flooding in Missouri could benefit.
Joinable was not one of the hackathon finalists, but when they told Mike Arrington about the interest they’d gotten, he invited them to present on stage with the winners.