Regardless of what you think about the rise, fall, and (perhaps) resurrection of messaging app Yo, its story illustrates something very clearly—technology companies make experiences, not products.

There’s important insight in this tale that applies to businesses of any size and stage. In fact, some of my favorite local startups, Adzerk, ReverbNation and Shoeboxed, all demonstrate this clearly. The experiences they deliver are central to their company’s message and mission.


Yo, if you haven’t read about it, is an app that does only one thing—sends a message containing the text ‘Yo’ to your contacts in the app. Yes, that’s right, it deliberately won’t do anything else.

It’s easy to point and call this ridiculous or a sign of the end times. And many people have been. But why not use it as an opportunity to learn something about why people use technology?


Classical Information Theory measures the transmission of information over a channel (stay with me here). With Yo, since there’s only one message that can be transmitted, there’s exactly one bit of information in each communication between sender and recipient. One bit, as in, Yo or not-Yo. It’s fascinating, then, to think that whatever value the app has must lie elsewhere.

(Also, as an aside, it’s much more difficult to determine the authorship and authenticity of one bit transmissions, which let this user impersonate Elon Musk on Yo for a few days)


The value of Yo to its users is entirely social, though the product itself is technological. It gives them a pure experience of shared history and context with whoever’s Yo-ing them. The value is delivered by technology but comes from inside their own brains.

I’ll repeat that, because it’s the key insight we can take away from this story—The value is delivered by technology but comes from inside their own brains.


As founders, we spend lots of time building, testing, and improving on technology. But this should always be in service of the core valuable experiences we’re delivering to users. Shoeboxed focuses on the ability for small businesses to avoid paper receipt clutter. ReverbNation is laser-focused on helping its users—musicians—build a following and connect with fans. Adzerk makes the experience of serving ads better for businesses. For visitors to websites, it helps deliver advertising messages that are more relevant.

At Trinket, we realized that the experience of better hands-on teaching was the core of what we provide our users, so we’re in the process of doubling down on that experience.

What’s the core value your business creates? If you find yourself talking about technology in answering that question, my message is: Yo! You’ve got it backwards.