While laying sick in bed one day, Christian Na had his first “pinch” moment.
He realized he was too ill to get out of bed to go buy medicine at the drugstore, so he started calling around to see if contacts were in the area to help him out.
Na, a Boston University alumnus, recently won the Best of Boston College Tech Fest 2015 for his app Pinch, which he says is creating a new economy that is based on people helping each other.
Like the name implies, people can use the app to ask others for help when they find themselves in a pinch.
Although Na thought of the concept behind the app while he was sick, Pinch is not limited to these sorts of tasks. Someone might put in a request for food from Chipotle, he said, or perhaps a mother might realize she ran out of diapers for her baby and doesn’t have time to run to the store.
Whatever the task, Na is trying to create a community of helpers within a city that can run short errands for other users.
“You go into the app, look at a map, and the map shows you all the people around you. The next feature–you can touch the account and see the face and photo. You can type the plus button and get whatever you want,” Na said. “We have a social feed for anytime someone helps, it’ll get onto social media. Right now if you go into the social scene you’ll see people doing all sorts of things.”
Although Pinch seems vague at first, the app was purposefully developed in that manner so that it could be tailored to suit each user.
Rather than outline precise requests, Pinch allows users to explain their situations to the public.
“People get help for anything that’s legal and if anyone wants to do it for you: an old textbook, help for a class, if someone needs help finding a cheap flight, an inspirational quote,” Na said. “We opened it to anywhere in the U.S., and soon we will open it up to the world.”
For every 100 points a user earns, they receive one dollar that is redeemable in the Pinch store. With this additional monetary incentive, app users are not completing tasks exclusively for altruistic motives, but also for rewards.
Some of these include tickets to parties/clubs, water bottles with fruit infusers, T-shirts, Apple iTunes gift cards, fitbits, Ray Ban sunglasses, and even GoPro cameras.
“Redeemable items change up every week—we have a special deal with a designer that just got into Neiman Marcus with custom items,” Na said. “If you don’t find what you like this week, you might find something you like next week. You can also Venmo points to friends for them to use.”
After thinking about this idea for some time, Na reached out to his friends and family for their feedback. He mentioned the idea to everyone he could, verifying whether others agreed with his idea.
“Many people liked my ideas and investing. From focus groups, we had people who wanted to join without pay. Now we have about 12 people on the team and major financial backing,” Na said. “We’re trying to expand. We’re focusing in Boston but we’re hoping to expand across the U.S. We were at CollegeFest for best new innovation. We got a notification from Owler that we just won the Boston competition for the best new app.”
Na came up with this concept after realizing in law school that he could have a huge impact on someone else’s day just by using 15 minutes of his free time to run an errand for them. He believes that these extra 15 minutes that everyone has in their day could be revolutionary, providing a workforce that could create change in waves.
“This is the largest untapped labor that is wasted every day. Our grand vision is to tap into that spare time to help people to help other people,” Na said. “If I had to tell people about Pinch, I would say, ‘Help people in 15 minutes and make 15 bucks!’