I’m sitting outside right now blogging in the sun, and, of course, wearing my Reactee. I love my WiFi, I love summer, and I love it when I get to review a product that I believe in. I first came across Reactee in a post from the MoMB website with a rather minimalist description: “Shirts that text you back.” I mentioned the Reactee website back in June and was super excited by what I saw. Now, after I’ve had a chance to see their product, try things out for a bit, and talk to some people, I can honestly say that Reactee is doing some great things.
The concept behind Reactee is pretty straightforward. You go to their site and design a shirt with your message and a customized keyword. You type up a few sentences that you want someone to see when the text your keyword to 41411. I chose “I geek for you” with the keyword “egeek”. (Want to see how it works? Go ahead and give it a try by sending an SMS with the word egeek to 41411.) You can change this text as often as you like, and when someone texts your keyword you get a nice little SMS letting you know. You can check out what other users have come up with at the Reactee Gallery.
Just being out and about with my Reactee on has gotten some great responses. People come up and ask about it. If you’re using it to spread some sort of message, you really get responses on two levels. People see the shirt and text you, but they also come up and ask about it face to face. And the shirts look cool, too. I’m definitely not embarrassed to be seen in public wearing my Reactee. The shirts themselves are rather thin, but mine has survived my washing machine so I’m happy. The print has that stylish I’ve-had-this-forever faded look. (I love that! It’s carefully crafted to make it look like all you did to look this cool is throw on the first thing you found, when you know you picked your outfit the night before!) I was really impressed that the website has a handy little chart that helps you figure out what size to order, a killer feature since clothing sizes vary so much from vendor to vendor.
Being an environmentally concerned netizen, there are a few things Reactee is doing that I definitely applaud. Their shirts are manufactured in the United States, reducing the amount of carbon required to get the shirts from the manufacturer. (Reactee is a US-based company.) Their “natural” colored shirts are made from organic materials. The shirts are also printed using water-based inks. I think that every company has a responsibility to my children minimize the impact that they have on the planet, and I’m am very pleased that Reactee is stepping up.
As I’ve said, the concept behind Reactee is straightforward. What excites me, however, is much broader in scope. SMS activism is changing the political and social landscape across the globe. From elections in Nigeria to chemical plants in China, we see the true power of SMS communication. Closer to home, we see something like Live Earth and wonder, “What do I do next?” Reactee encourages you to take your message to the streets and put a face to your cause. Sure, you’re just one person, but armed with a Reactee, just imagine what you could do!
I contacted Reactee asking if they had any interest in an article or an interview, and Ariel emailed me the very same day. After wearing my Reactee around for a while, and seeing the reactions it got, I couldn’t wait to hear Ariel’s thoughts on the questions I sent. As you can see, he got back to me with some great responses:
# I understand that Reactee is a partnership between TextMarks, Inc. and Revel Industries. Can you talk a little about this? How did it all begin? There always seems to be a great story behind a successful startup. What’s the Reactee story?
The initial idea was to offer shirts to TextMarks users as a way of promoting their keywords. The idea for focusing on the shirts as a standalone product came in a meeting I had with my friend Joe Greenstein (CEO of Flixster). We thought: why limit this product to people who already had a TextMark? Why not make an “interactive shirt” that anyone can use? As to the connection with Revel, I sent an email to the alumni list at Stanford Business School asking for suggestions on people familiar with the t-shirt industry – as I had little experience in it. Someone suggested Chris Gorog, the CEO of Revel Industries and a Stanford alum. We got together at hit it off.
# What about competition? Do you feel that there is competition in your market, or has Reactee created their own market niche? What’s in store for the future of your market space?
So far, we are the only ones offering interactive t-shirts. It is actually not that easy to make this product well. You have the text messaging infrastructure on one side, designing a shirt that balances aesthetics with functionality, making the shirts on demand with good quality, and then integrating the whole thing. As to the future, we are working on a number of features to make the shirts even more interactive and fun, we are also getting lots of requests from abroad, so we are looking into that.
# Define your audience. Who is the average person who will be wearing a Reactee? Do you see a future in individuals or groups? Or will you continue to cater to both? Is there a corporate interest in your product?
We are seeing interest (and orders) from several types of customers:
– Individuals with shirts such as “Think I Am Hot” or “Love Movies”
– Lots of small business, e.g., “Need a Realtor”, “French Lessons”, “Fitness Max”, “I Design Websites”
– Non profits, e.g., “Peace Now”, “Santa Barbara Symphony”, “Change the World with Tech”
– Corporations: we’ve gotten a number of large orders from corporations for promotions, internal events, and as gifts for employees.
# In the wake of financial scandals and more recent concerns over climate change, corporate values are becoming more and more of a deciding factor for today’s consumer. Are there any values that Reactee holds dear? Does Reactee find a way to give back to the community?
Lots of non-profit organizations are using Reactee to promote great causes. In addition to helping them with promotion, we share our revenues with them, helping them financially. And we donate free shirts to some small organizations. All of us involved with Reactee care deeply about our communities and individually each one is involved with more than one project. We are a very socially responsible company. For example, we use shirts that are made in the USA and print with environmentally friendly water-based ink.
# What’s the best thing about being a part of Reactee? What is it that makes you shiver with excitement when you’re telling someone about Reactee? Is there anything in particular that makes you get out of bed in the mornings?
The most fun aspect of Reactee is seeing the creative uses that our customers find for the shirts. I love going to ourgallery to see the latest shirts that our customers have built. I also love the fact that we are producing a physical good. While it sure is a LOT more work than when you are just selling “bits”, it is also a lot more satisfying when our customers receive their shirts and send us emails telling us how much they love them and how much their friends liked them.
I really want to thank Ariel for the thoughtful and thought-provoking answers, and also the Reactee team for putting together a great product. I love what you guys are doing, I love the fact that you’re environmentally conscious, and I’m totally excited by all the possibilities that are out there for anyone with a message and a mobile phone.