Put Down Your Phone! It’s Time to Tock

May 23, 2014

2:00 pm

Nowadays, we use our phones more than we talk in person. On college campuses, offices, and in our homes, we are constantly consumed with social media and who has “liked” our latest post or photo.

Connected, wired, and unable to talk with the people around us – the younger generation would usually rather chat over tiny screens instead of being engaged with the people in front of them. Similarly, Rachel Samples noticed this trend… after one of her own experiences last winter.

“I had my phone at the dining room table and my mom literally snatched it out of my hands and was like “come on,” said Rachel Samples from Wilmington, DE. ” I realized if I wasn’t even a person who was super addicted to my phone, there were plenty more people who were constantly on their phone. I thought there needs to be some type of solution, some type of game to get people off their phones in a fun and engaging way.”

Through taking a media entrepreneurship class at Syracuse University with Professor Sean Branagan, the Director of the Center of Media Entrepreneurship, Samples was able to put her idea into action. Originally called “stump,” Samples along with Jacquie Greco, created Tock in March.

How Does Tock Work?

Marketed to young professionals and college students aged 18-29 and people who are constantly connected to their devices and other social media, Tock is a game that rewards users for being away from their device. Here’s how it works:

  • Users download the free app and create a Tock profile so that they can connect it with your pre-existing social media. The account “holds your points so when you go out to dinner with friends or go to the bar, you can set a pre-determined time for your game,” said Samples.
  • After setting a time, you initiate the game with the users you are playing with: ” You hit start and you lock your screen so whoever swipes into their phone to get a text message or to get a call loses and the winner gets points toward their profile,” said Samples.
  • Essentially, the time away from your phone is transferred into points. “It’s weird because when you are playing, you’re not on your phone. You are playing in a metaphorical sense but by participating in the game you are being social face-to-face and putting yourself out there outside of that social circle,” said Samples.

Put to the Test

Samples, 22, said the team was able to leverage their status as students at SU as well as social media to spread the word. However, one of the biggest ways they tested Tock was through an event at a local bar in late April.

“It was an event where we invited people on Facebook to spread the word and people handed in their phones for up to two hours – physically handed them in – and  we had them in drawers for a discount drink coupon or the reward,” said Samples. “We had 125 people come out and hand in their phones and be social face-to-face.”

Samples said accountability and people “being humans again” is a big part of Tock’s value proposition.

“The take-away is to get people out of their screens and to stop uses their phones as a social crutch…. a lot of people in our age group aren’t present. People are just stuck on their screens and their social media sites,” said Samples.

On the Move: Coming to a City Near You?

Samples said she hopes the team can create an alpha version of the app by August, and a beta version by the fall. While the team – which also includes Greco, Pat McGowan and Mike Escalante – has its roots in Syracuse, they plan to move to Los Angeles and either set up their own work space or be members of a co-working space. Last Spring, the team also won $7,500 in the RvD Idea Awards and were named the “Rookie of the Year” at the New York State Business Plan Competition in Albany, NY.

Overall, Samples said she has already learned a lot about herself, the industry, and how to promote Tock.

“There’s a lot beyond the phone and it’s tough to promote an anti-smartphone app when you have to answer emails and take calls,” said Samples.” Another thing is that people really believe in Tock and people are are able to be social again once they are presented with the issue.”


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Amanda Quick is a tech/startup reporter covering young entrepreneurs for Tech Cocktail. She’s also interested in covering apps, emerging technology, IoT and beauty & wellness.

Amanda is currently in grad school at Syracuse University studying Information Management. In the past she has interned at NBC Sports, NBC Olympics, Brand-Yourself, and the Times Leader Newspaper as well as worked at WWNY-TV and the StartFast Venture Accelerator in Upstate New York. Amanda is originally from Kansas City, MO but has also lived in Canton, MA and Scranton, PA.

To learn more you can visit amandalquick.com.

Like Amanda on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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