Mike Gyi

November 17, 2022

My impossible dream

[written in 2021, found in my drafts yesterday, see this post for an explanation of its tardiness]

I talk a lot about my impossible dream to people close to me. Unfortunately, this was inspired by Alex Ferguson's impossible dream to knock the team I support, Liverpool, off their perch. However, I think my dream is better than his dream ever was. 

At a high level, my dream is to spend life doing things I enjoy. At a more focused level, it's about finding work that:

  • Pays me enough 
  • Does good for the world
  • Something I'm good at
  • Something I enjoy

Sound familiar? Yes, this is that excellent Ikigai venn diagram you've probably seen before. However, this article isn't about that so let's move swiftly on...

My current project Town Spot is my impossible dream and I'm going to lay out my current view of the future here.

I want to ease loneliness and connect people to where they live with a number of different design interventions, digital and physical. I've already written about how Town Spot came to be, now I want to lay out my current vision, which is evolving every day.

You might think I'm mad to share my ideas, but how else do you expect me to 1) hold myself accountable to doing them 2) cultivate the ideas into existence 3) make you a believer too 4) spread my ideas to others who also want to fix the same problem of physical disconnectivity.

I've convinced you? Great, let's begin...

The core idea is to send you a list of interesting stuff in your neighbourhood, within walking distance from your house, every Sunday via WhatsApp. This exists already in a neighbourhood in London and has proven to make an impact. Subscribers have remarked about making new friends, discover new local coffee shops, and going to cool events in their neighbourhood. This first product of Town Spot has proved it provides richer experiences where you live. 

I also want to create a platform that's a more local, richer version of what Google Maps offers local businesses. I feel like people would love to know the stories, scratch that, the people behind these independent shops and this would build affinity between the neighbours and the shops. It would bring a personal touch to the shopping/neighbourhood experience.

The website would require login from neighbours and would be free to use up until a point, then you'd have to start paying. Perhaps the free tier includes static content, ability to read neighbour reviews of shops, ability to add an amendment to a shop's story (confirmed by the shop, like wikipedia does), get notified when a new shop or information is added to the platform. Then the paid tier would be weekly listings and updates via email/WhatsApp/post (+£5 extra) plus private discounts and a Town Spot physical members card to gain discount benefits.

Another thing I want to do is create large stickers with these photos and stories on them, to stick in the window of a shop or a pub. The sticker would provide most of the value upfront without the need for tech, but then the experience would be gamified whereby you scan a QR code, login, and collect that shop's story or playing card within your account. It's a modern treasure hunt, rooted in the past, allowing you to discover where you live!

[edit: in 2022 I made the stickers a reality]

Finally, to complete the service, there need to be regular partnerships made with the businesses to offer discounts to the closed user group: the Town Spot members. You can become a member by paying a subscription fee or being low-income or retired.

Lastly, colour. We need an injection of colour in our streets to brighten up the UK. My friend atelier bebop has shown how effective this is in Manchester with his colour murals. We can do this anywhere. It's another physical layer that'll knit this whole service together. The government are too preoccupied to worry or care about connecting our towns at a local level and to be honest, it's very difficult. However, I guess this would all be a lot easier if they were to fund us - maybe this will happen one day. 

For now, I continue with patience and following my dream. It's been 2 years already with no investment, but strong consistency, progress and determination to find a way to make this work. I'm guided by my impossible dream, it gives me meaning and provides a light far into the future to guide me through choppy waters. 

What's your impossible dream? 

About Mike Gyi

UX/Product, ex-architecture, ex-TW, community addict, building https://www.townspot.uk