Cece Hampton ’24
Do you ever find yourself seeking advice from a certain person, but you wish you could ask them for it anonymously? Do your friends seek you out for your own advice and feedback, praising you for your wisdom? Well, Kamal Nader, a member of the class of 2024, has an app for you. Launched on August 10th, 2022, Nader’s app, called Straightener, presents a new take on advice forums. Straightener allows users to ask other preferred users anonymous questions.
Based on the quality and helpfulness of the answer provided, the user asking the question rates the answer on a scale of 1 to 5. This rating correlates to earnings of “Arrows,” which is the currency on Straightener. Once a user has collected enough arrows, they may redeem a gift card of their choosing.
What makes Straightener different from pre-existing apps is its anonymity and incentive structure. This is unique because it encourages users not to defer to judgment when answering questions and promotes genuine answers. Questions are asked privately but answered by a public profile so everyone can benefit from it.
Initially, Nader developed the app to receive personal help. For him, creating this app has never been about business. He simply wanted to find a way to solve his own problems, wishing he could ask certain people for their help but not knowing how. He soon realized he was not the only one with this desire. From relationship advice to sports betting tips, food recommendations or birthday gift suggestions, Nader explained that Straightener’s mission is to “give users a personalized experience that allows them to hear from exactly the people they want to hear from.”
This is different from current popular forums, where users post on identifiable profiles and can give or receive unhelpful or even fake advice. Nader said that his main goal is not to repeat what has been done before and to create a user experience that is rewarding to both sides: those who ask and those who answer. He hopes to build a community and transform Straightener into a lifestyle app.
Nader began working on Straightener during the summer of 2020, just before entering his freshman year here at Trinity. The name Straightener refers to the app’s goal of providing users with “straight up answers from people of your choosing.” One of the most impressive aspects of Nader’s journey through developing this app is that most of the work he has done on it has been from his dorm room. Because of the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was not much to do around campus. Nader used this time drawing out screens for the app and creating professional presentations to pitch his idea. In the fall of 2020 from his Jones dorm room, Nader successfully pitched Straightener to a private investor and received the funding to begin development.
Without a coding background, Nader never believed he would enter this realm of business; however, he realized that “just because I couldn’t code it myself didn’t mean I couldn’t make it happen.” With the help of his friend from home who has a degree in computer science, he found a trustworthy business partner who shared his vision and could help him code the app. On January 7th, 2021, programming officially began.
During the summer of 2021, beta users began giving Nader feedback on the app and its features. Over the course of 2021 and into early 2022, Nader continuously revised the app and configured its logistics, getting it to a point that he and others really liked. By spring of 2022, all that was left to do was finalize legal matters, and, by the summer, the app launched officially.
Now, Nader’s number one priority is getting as many people to join the Straightener community as possible, especially Trinity students. Last weekend, St. Anthony’s Hall hosted an event in collaboration with Straightener to foster student engagement and get people to download the app. After the success of this event, Nader is looking to host more fun events and even hinted at possibly doing a giveaway soon.
Nader’s advice for someone who is just starting to pursue an entrepreneurial project is to be able to map out on paper the “who, what, when, where, and why” of your mission. When you can answer all those questions confidently, you start to try to win over as many people as you can to support your idea. Nader says that it is important to “be open to criticism…an idea is one thing but making it a reality is a lot harder than most people think.” His biggest takeaway from this experience so far is that “no one is ever going to hand you anything in life. You will be told a lot more nos than yeses, but if you believe in yourself and that what you are doing has purpose, if you keep waking up and knowing everything you do is another step in the right direction, you will be able to achieve what you are after. Stick to something and be consistent with it. It shows your character, and it opens a lot of doors for you.” Nader’s journey with Straightener is only just beginning. As it continues to grow, be sure to stay tuned for updates.