Austin Kevitch was in high school when he first came up with the idea for an app that would allow users to send compliments to each other anonymously. But it wasn’t until tragedy struck years later that he decided to turn that idea into reality.
Kevitch was studying abroad in South Africa when his friend, Oliver Pacchiana, died in a rock climbing accident. Soon after, positive and loving messages flooded Pacchiana’s Facebook wall. The tributes moved Kevitch deeply, and he imagined how much they would have meant to his friend if he’d received them while he was alive.
“Just hearing one of those comments could change your life,” said Kevitch, now 25 and the CEO of the app Brighten. “I learned a lot about him just from what people were sharing. It was a wake-up call that the world needs something like [Brighten].”
Today, Kevitch runs Brighten out of Santa Monica, California, with a six-person staff. The app, downloaded over 1 million times since its 2015 release, allows users to send out anonymous compliments called “brightens,” although Kevitch says most people choose to identify themselves. Users can also send a snapshot of their smile to the person who complimented them.