A Letter from Vlada Bortnik, CEO and Co-Founder
To our amazing Marco Polo community,
I’ve always tried to be transparent about the fact that my life is a real life. It’s not a lofty one that takes place behind corporate fanfare, shielded from reality. My husband Michal and I built a tech company on expansive dreams, yet throughout my growth as a founder and leader, I’ve prioritized balance, kindness, and mindfulness in my thinking and actions. This year challenged every bit of that.
So at the end of what has been a demanding, humbling, and exhilarating period of growth for all of Marco Polo and a tumultuous year in our world, I wanted to take a moment to breathe, assess, and share some of the important lessons I’ve learned and intend to carry into 2021 and beyond.
#1. We can do hard things.
From the earliest days, Michal, our investors, and I understood that the time would come when our company would need to shift to a sustainable business model (put more simply: start making money). We couldn’t fulfill our mission, much less survive, if we only offered a free product. And we refused to generate income by selling third-party ads or our community’s personal data.
So we decided to introduce a premium subscription. No other competing company had created a successful business that way…yet. It was a huge bet. But it was time, and we set 2020 as our year. This past summer, we rolled out Marco Polo Plus, a product that we believed would enable us to build a lasting, profitable business while creating the best experience for all of you – one that put your well-being first and provided a free way for anyone to connect through our app.
Our community responded passionately during the launch. Some cheered us on, welcoming the new features and ad-free stance, while others openly expressed cynicism and frustration at the outset of a global pandemic. How could we possibly think it was the right time to introduce a paid product – or to move 2x behind the paywall?
It took fortitude to stand by our mission and vision and maintain morale within our small team. Everyone worked tirelessly to get Marco Polo Plus right while treating our new customers with care and appreciation – even those who were really upset.
Six months later, our big bet has paid off. Marco Polo Plus adoption has far surpassed our expectations, demonstrating that many people value our purpose and premium experience enough to pay for it. I couldn’t be prouder of this valuable product. I couldn’t be more grateful to our earliest adopters. And I’m blown away by the passion and dedication that our team showed, even as the world presented extraordinary challenges.
We had big plans for 2020. Not only did we want to launch a paid offering, but also our new product, Marco Polo Channels, a video-first platform that provides a space for coaches, teachers, creatives, and business leaders to share their expertise in a way that deeply impacts and transforms people, all while getting paid doing what they love. The response has been incredible. And although I have always trusted our company’s capacity to do big things, I’m still in awe of the fact that we pulled it off.
In the midst of all this, Michal and I, like millions of working parents around the world, found ourselves with two elementary-age kids at home 24/7. Reality hit, and it hit hard. Tucked into our small home and in the thick of developing and launching two new products, we managed online classrooms, scheduled daily lunches with our girls, managed fear for our aging parents and relatives working in hospitals, confronted California’s forest fires, and made the best of our experiences together.
We can do hard things. The important things are always worth fighting for, even if they’re harder than we ever anticipated.
#2. The hard choices are often the right choices.
Our team has been motivated by the film The Social Dilemma, a powerful story told by some of the earliest architects in the social media industry. These pioneers had great intentions but didn’t consider or realize the implications of the choices they made in developing their businesses – in particular, the unintentionally nefarious tactics and disastrous results of the advertising models and the algorithms that feed addictive behavior.
Michal and I made a conscious decision to take a different path with Marco Polo. We were driven by the premise that technology is magical, erasing time and distance to bring people together.
What if tech could bring out the best in all of us? What if we could create technology that’s actually good for you? What if we put the spotlight on authentic connection, communication, and emotional well-being?
As the film shed a light on technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society, we came away doubly convinced that our company and model provide an antidote to that, and that the questions we asked ourselves at the very beginning are still the right questions to ask in a post-Social Dilemma conversation.
#3. Social activism matters. I’m committed to doing more.
Those familiar with my personal story know that I am a refugee. In 1990, on the cusp of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, my family found freedom, safety, and opportunity in the United States.
But my immigrant story is different from the stories of countless others. I had a way in. My family stayed together. I had ready access to quality education. And I am white. So while I worked extremely hard to achieve my successes, I also recognize that I have enormous privilege which eases my day-to-day life – privilege that Black people, indigenous people, and people of color are not afforded by default.
The social reckoning that has taken place this year, and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, made me realize that as a tech leader, I need to do more. As a company, we need to do more. As an industry, we must bring in more representation and challenge the assumptions that drive hiring and investment so that we can expand access to opportunity and foster the development of new products and services that address needs we don’t currently serve.
I personally still have much to learn. So I’ve read, watched, and listened. I’ve had conversations with my Black friends, including Black founders. I’m making sure my kids learn along with me, and as a family, we’ve marched together, watched movies together, and read books. We’re supporting Black-owned businesses and donating to causes dedicated to racial justice. And as a company, we’re doubling down on our efforts to source and hire diverse candidates.
One resource that has been invaluable to me is Coaching for Authentic Allyship with author, speaker, coach, and social unity/oneness practitioner Pamela Gray Daniel. On Marco Polo Channels, Pamela has created a safe space to share honest dialogue and explore racial justice and allyship.
#4. I’m proud we built a remote company from the start.
Our company has been fully distributed (aka remote) since we started in 2012. Because we embraced remote work long before it became necessary and had years to establish best practices, we were well situated to keep our Teamily moving through the challenges of two product launches during a year when many of us felt daily uncertainty and fear in our personal lives.
Having established best remote practices, we knew how to lift each other up, and our trust in each other has only grown stronger. I’m so grateful to the Marco Polo team for believing in me and our purpose, working hard, staying focused despite all the craziness in the world, and for having some laughs along the way. They inspire me every day.
(If you’re interested in practical ways to maintain a great remote work environment, take a look at the LinkedIn article I wrote in the early days of the pandemic. It outlines strategies, tips, and tools for effective and joyful remote work, including Marco Polo.)
#5. Gratitude matters.
Gratitude is the through-line of my well-being, happiness, and decision-making. So I want to end this letter with a huge wave of it, from the bottom of my heart.
Thank you to everyone who is loving and supporting Marco Polo, whether with a Plus subscription or by sharing it among your friends and family. Thank you to the Channels leaders for making our apps part of your lives and businesses.
Thank you to incredible organizations like Pandemic of Love that have helped keep the lights on or food on the table. Thank you to teachers, who have modeled wisdom and grace as they learned to educate remotely. Thanks to the nonprofits working to maintain the new normal of the classroom, like Donors Choose and Two Screens for Teachers.
Thank you to my sister and brother-in-law and to all the front-line workers and first responders who put your lives on the line every day to help keep us alive and well.
Thank you to our investors, a wise and supportive group who not only believe in Marco Polo, but believe in our never-before-attempted path toward sustainability.
Thank you to my daughters, who had to grow up a bit faster and learn to be more patient with me, and to my parents, who nurtured us with regular food drop-offs.
And thank you to Michal for being the best partner, father, and co-founder. I couldn’t dream of anyone better.
We hope you and your loved ones stay well this season. I believe that we can emerge from this challenging year with renewed hope and connection. We’re in this together.
With warmth and gratitude,
89 thoughts on “Reflections on 2020: Challenge, change, and hope”
What a wonderful life story…
Gary, yes 🙂 Thank you so much for being on this journey with Marco Polo.
I need to get rid of this app can’t afford it at this time. My granddaughter wanted me to try it I thought it was free need to not be billed for this anymore
Hi Nina – Marco Polo remains a free app; Marco Polo Plus is an optional subscription. If you think you’ve been subscribed or billed in error, please reach out to our Support team at email@example.com, and they can try to help resolve your issue. Thank you!
I love Marco Polo!! So far I only use with it my MIL who is in FL (and we are in NY). She loves getting and sending the video messages because she loves seeing my face and hearing my voice. Such a freakin GREAT IDEA!!!!! 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏
Thank you Gary!
Thank you, my family love the app.
Marco Polo changed my life with my grown stepchildren!!! We can share our deepest thoughts and secret feelings. We have learned to know each other and expand our love. We got Plus for our family. Thank you MP people!!!!
Thank you so much for “obviously” deep cleaning and inventory of yourself.
The worse thing to say unless you ARE a person of color or a minority is “I understand how you feel!” Thx for bringing a much loved and appreciated topic to your platform♥️
Marco Polo Is ESSENTIAL for my business as a Coach and Leader in Health and Wellness, and for connection with friends and family! I am forever Grateful!
It’s wonderful to hear that Marco Polo plays such an important role in both your work and your personal connections. Thank you for the feedback!
Lovely thoughts during a brutal chapter.
Thank you from all of us for reading, Jan!
Jan! It’s so nice to hear from you. Thank you for reading and for your mentorship early on in my life!
Hi, we hope that Marco Polo will continue not only as a product but for the opportunity for family and friends around the world to be able to leave video messages. Sometimes many of may not want to talk live to someone we know, but it is nice just to leave a “thinking about you” video message. Thank you Marco polo!
So true, Anne. Thank you!
Love that, Anne! Our mission is to help people feel close…and getting “thinking of you” messages definitely helps that!
Thank you Anne. I feel the same way. I reach out to my daughter-in-law this way. She struggles with transportation, so this way I can find out how she and my grandchildren are with out any hassles. It has been very stressful and hard for her since my son was murdered. Marco Polo is a godsend. I don’t know what I would do without it. This is private and easy to use. I don’t do social media. If I want, I can even send her a text message. I prefer thos app, cause you get to see them.
We love Marco Polo. Best way for our family to keep in touch. Thank you!
Verla, we’re so glad. Thank you for your support.
Thank you for the kind words, Verla!
2020 was a hard year, but it was also a good year. I feel many people found how to enjoy the little things, and I personally have grown in many ways. I can now deal with things that at the beginning of 2020 and before I couldn’t handle, or were scared of and I learned a lot about myself and my family.
God bless every single one of you!!!
Liz, thank you for sharing these heartwarming thoughts – it’s so true that growth can come from challenge <3
Just want to say that I love Marco Polo! I have forged very strong connections with quite a number of people with a common connection – Bright Line Eating. I talk with my friends at least once a day, often twice a day. Now if only I could convince my daughters to add it so I could speak more frequently with my young grandchildren!!! I’m trying!!
Hi Teri – This is wonderful to hear – we’re so glad Marco Polo has helped you build such strong new connections this year!
Awww, thank you for sharing this! I’m so glad to hear that you’re able to connect with friends. I hope your daughters will join you on Marco Polo soon. I know that my girls have loved seeing their grandparents more often.
I am new to the Marco Polo community but saw and could see it’s uniqueness and value from the first time I engage with my friend, who introduced me to Marcl Polo, on the platftom and all it had to offer. Your letter has only brought more light to that feeling and cemented my place in being part of the Marco Polo community I would like to join with you in ushering in a new world of hope and joy for you, your family, your team and the world.
Thank you for sharing Marco Polo .
Hi Gail – Thank you for this lovely feedback, and for being a part of the Marco Polo community. We’re so glad the app has become such a big part of keeping you connected.
Wow, this was a very encouraging story! I had no idea of the story, and lives, behind the founding of Marco Polo. It is a real blessing to me and family. It enables us to stay connected with our family overseas that we only get to see every 2-3 years.
Please keep up the wonderful work!!!!
Thank you, Al! We’re so glad you enjoyed learning more about Vlada and the origins of Marco Polo, and we’re truly happy that the app is helping to keep your family connected.
Al, thank you for taking the time to share. I’m so glad to hear that Marco Polo has been helpful to your family. My family is also overseas and we really wanted our kids to feel close, truly close to their grandparents…that’s how the company got started :). I hope that we can continue to serve your family and help you feel close despite time and distance. Happy Holidays!
What an amazing story. Thank you for being such conscientious people. You make our world a much better place. Thank you for all you do
Paula, this is so heartwarming. Thank you.
Paula, I’m blushing. Thank you for such a lovely note. Thank you for your support. Wishing you all the best.
Thank you for sharing your lovely story!! In spite of what 2020 dropped on us, we all have so much to be thankful for, and I appreciate you putting it into words!!
JoAnn, it’s so true. Thank you for your words of optimism and support!
Thank you JoAnn! I’m so glad to hear that. Happy Holidays!
Thank you for using your God-given gifts to create such a wonderful way to encourage families to communicate while being far apart. This app has changed the lives of my two daughters, my wife, and me as our previous text messages have become enlivened with video. We see our grandchildren playing and now talking to us; we share thoughts and dreams as we awaken, make breakfast, drive to the doctor, open presents, and fall asleep. We are grateful for all you and your team have created for us to thrive during these strange times. And Premium rocks! Love 1.5 times speed and the note pad!!
Jay, this is absolutely beautiful. And we’re so glad you’re enjoying Plus 🙂 Thank you!
Jay! I have chills. Thank you for taking the time to share and thank you for your support. I believe it’s those little moments (like the ones that you described) that can help us feel close to one another. I know my kids have absolutely loved feeling that close to their grandparents. I’m grateful to know that it looks like the same thing is happening in your family :D. Wishing you all the very best!
Beautiful. Thank you for your example and sharing your goodness. 🙂
Thank you, Deb!
Aww, thanks so much Deb!
I want to cogratulate you Vlada for your efforts and business. I live out of the United States and my friends rarely use Marco Polo, but I like it very much. I hope that in the future I can be able to support this great iniciative!
The Lord bless you and happy new year!
Thank you so much, Carlos. A happy new year to you as well!
Thank you so much for your note of support. Happy New Year to you as well!
Marco Polo has been a huge blessing to our family during the Covid-19 pandemic. We were able to leave video messages and chat live. It really took some of the pain of separation away that we felt because of geographical distances and Covid restrictions. I’m a mother and grandmother and a student. I don’t have a source of income right now. While I don’t think anyone should have to work and not get paid unless they are volunteering by choice, I am grateful for the free option. I believe that all lives matter! Every person was created equally by our very wise and loving Creator God.
Thank you so much for this, Marilyn – we’re so glad Marco Polo has helped to keep your family connected during this challenging time.
Hi Marilyn, I’m so happy to hear that Marco Polo has helped lessen the pain. It’s been an incredibly honor to be a lifeline for so many families, especially this year. Hopefully you know that we’re a purpose driven company, our purpose is to help people feel close. This why we’re setting up our business to freely offer Marco Polo to anyone who wants it. Plus is an optional subscription service that has many perks, but isn’t required. Wishing you all the best!
My daughters introduced me to MP in 2018. I was skeptical at first but soon became a great fan. Little did we know the two years later we would be living on different continents during a global pandemic. I am thankful for how this app allows me to “feel” connected to my family even in drastically different time zones. This Christmas – thanks to the “family plan discount “ I committed to premium and gifted the family with all the perks. I hadn’t considered that this was an ad free app. It makes me appreciate it all the more.
I am proud for you and your hard work to build a business in a country that offers opportunity to whom ever will work hard to grab it. That is the key. Hard work. And you did it!
Happy New Year and thanks for connecting our family over the miles of ocean.
Risa, thank you for sharing this wonderful story. We’re so grateful to you and all of our Plus subscribers for giving the gift of connection. Best wishes to you and your family for a joyful new year!
Risa, your words mean so much to me. We’re definitely working really hard and doing things differently so that we can help as many people as we can feel authentically close to their loved ones. I truly believe it’s key to happiness. Thank you for taking the time to share and thank you for your support.
My family is spread from SanFrancisco to LasVegas and Rochester, New York. Marco Polo has been the “tie that binds” sine before the Pandemic. Thank you for creating family connectivity when it went from convenient to critical. You’re amazing letter Vlada inspired me to writez
Tom, thank you so much, from all of us at Marco Polo <3
Tom, thank you for taking the time to share. I’m so grateful to hear that Marco Polo has been that “tie that binds”. This is why we do what we do! Wishing you all the best.
Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. I am grateful to Marco Polo for it has been the conduit that has to some extent lessened the pain of isolation from family and friends during pandemic times.
Martha, we’re so glad that Marco Polo has helped you and your loved ones feel less isolated and more connected during this incredibly challenging time. Thank you for reading Vlada’s post and for being part of the Marco Polo community.
Thank you for reading and sharing, Martha. I really appreciate you taking the time and so grateful for your support!
I love Marco Polo and Channels has been a HUGE addition to my business. Thank you for all you do.
Thank you, Vlada, Michal, your family, Lindsay, and the whole Marco Polo “teamily”! Here at Piano Marvel, we totally understand the need to have a paid membership model and recently upgraded to your paid version as a Piano Marvel Family. We love the new features and have had a lot of fun exploring them as most of us work remotely too! We love you and continue to encourage piano teachers and students who use Piano Marvel to use Marco Polo! Best wishes to all of you in the New Year and thank you for your valuable contributions to technology and communication.
I belong to two support groups with women living all over the USA and Canada. We have never met, but the support we give to each other over the year is priceless. Though I cannot financially afford Marco Polo plus, I’m so glad that the free app does the job to keep us connected and our heads above water as we navigate through these difficult times in life. It is literally a lifesaver. I just wish we had access to the prayer icon and the 2X speed. Thank you very much and have deep gratitude for you keeping this program away from advertisers. Thank you very much. You are making a positive impact on people who have difficult lives.
This app has helped our blended family (who are all grown and have families of their own)that is separated by miles stay connected in the past couple years. Thank you so much.One of our adult daughter’s first told us about the app. I am glad she did.
This app has helped our family stay connected.Thank you so much.
My sisters and I have loved connecting through MP. We’ve shared funny experiences and Our regular, daily lives.
Also, Vlada’s post is wonderful, showing traits of good leadership, business ethics, and honest people. Thanks for sharing your story and vision!
My daughter-in-laws introduced me to this app last year and said it was a great way to stay in contact with the grandkids. I used it a few times when I couldn’t be with them. It was fun. I just moved to Africa from California and decided to test the app and see if I could talk with them. OH JOY!! I cannot thank you enough for your service, hard work, efforts, and ideas! My life is enriched because of your efforts. Thank you for your timely and insightful message. It has given me a lot to think about. Thank you.
This app has been a fave and such a blessing to my family. I live on the opposite side of the world from my family. To be able to see their faces and communicate regularly with such simplicity is priceless. I love being a plus member and supporting something of worth. Thank you Marco Polo team for all you do!
Our family has truly enjoyed Marco Polo through giving family updates and connecting through video that makes us feel like we are all together!! I will join the plus version to continue this service but please do not remove those who have the other version because some are college students and elderly that can’t or won’t get the plus version and we would not be able to Marco Polo them. Thank-You so much for your innovation and ability to spread kindness and Love through giving us a way to make real connections with our love ones!!
I’ve taught a very unique group of men for the past six years. 25 to 30 gather at a local cigar shop and cover major topics from struggles with pornography, substance abuse, basic personality issues, and the like. The overall passion was to create and environment for men to be themselves and to make themselves better I’m being real/genuine, vulnerable, and to be the man of God that He calls them to be. When the pandemic hit Marco polo what is the one resource that seem to tie the core group of 18 to 20 men together. We recently had two of our men hospitalized due to Covid one came home last night and the other should come home in the next couple of days. The men have literally praised God for Marco Polo and said how amazing it was to be able to see people and communicate with us on their own time, when they could, And to be able to relisten to the encouraging videos from time to time. A few of us share Marco Polo plus, and as the leader, I can tell you that it is amazing. 🙂 I haven’t tried the new group video system, but I will definitely be looking into that.
2 Corinthians 13:14 to each of you, cheers, have an amazing new year, keep doing what you’re doing.
I am not eloquent so I cannot tell you how much Marco Polo has helped me during these times. I was supposed to travel from Ohio to California to see my family in late October. COVID prevented that. Then at the end of the month I fell and broke 3 bones. I am still recovering. Seeing my grandson’s faces daily has kept me going. My son can check on my progress. Thank you so much!
Thank you so much for Marco Polo! My family and friends in Costa Rica can leave video messages at anytime for me. I always look forward to seeing their smiling faces on. One of the only ways to communicated between countries. Let’s all make this next year an amazing one! Thanks Lindsey for making this journey we are on a more pleasant one.
The wrong approach was taken by Marco Polo in making a free app a paid app in making the free portion much abbreviated.
I have upgraded many apps to the premium version for the increased price when given new features, your company decided to abbreviate the free portion down to nearly unusable, and have charged a large fee for essentially the same app we used to have with a small number of minor upgrades, this change also came at a time when many were forced to use technology to connect with each other due to circumstance and smacks of gouging. This upgrade process should be used as a cautionary tale for other developers, As many happy customers, including myself, have jumped ship.
I hope you all learn from this massive mistake.
James, I too felt that way at first! BUT after reading the story above and also knowing how much I love being in contact with my Friends & Family (as a senior on a fixed income) I am going to find the $ to support this AWESOME Company! It is rare to find people who actually CARE and I really hope you reconsider! You and they are worth it. <3
Lovely for you to share this!🧡
Our youngest son introduced us to Marco Polo as lock downs began. Even though we live fairly near to 2 of our grown children and texted frequently, Marco Polo added depth to our conversations. In the beginning, we used it constantly but sort of slacked off in the last few month. Last week, my daughter sent us a text saying she needed to see faces – please Marco Polo.
Thank you for the beautifully written letter and for Marco Polo.
I so enjoyed reading your story of the conception of a truly remarkable business…and I adore that it is woman owned! Marco Polo has truly gotten me thru some very dark times since the beginning of quarantine and Covid. I am on the ‘mature’ side of life; health compromised and an extreme extrovert and traveler. My daughter and I live in different parts of the country, and she has Marco Polo’d me every single day for 10 months and that connection has meant more than anything possible could. Thank you so much, and I plan to become a plus member!! Thank you for your transparency and your hard work.
Sorry guys but not everyone can afford at this time a subscription. We could not share anymore because that.Please let it be basic so in this pandemic time can use your app.I stopped use it your app.
Thank You Marco Polo! I am a deaf caregiver for an elderly deaf lady who has dementia. Marco Polo is a wonderful tool to communicate with her family and a team of assistants. I also use MPolo for training, updates, show activities/exercises and so many more. Family send their messages and I show to them to her and it brings lots of smiles!
Thank you and best wishes for 2021! I do hope that MPolo wont become a full pay app. That will be the biggest disappointment.
What a wonderful letter and wonderful story. It is so refreshing to hear from someone who has been successful in spite of a “hard climb” and then putting their success rewards into the lives of others. Thank you for Marco Polo ! It has been a means of me communicating with 2 of my grand daughters who are geographically far away. I heart-i-ly recommend it to others. Happy New Year to all at Marco Polo!
My friends and I use MP frequently. I am very disappointed in some of the basic features that have been designated as Premium (I.e. forwarding a Polo or commenting during a Polo). I do also agree that the price increase came at a bad time for the majority of people. Just like the movie Social Dilemma pointed out, people are going to buy these features. It doesn’t necessarily mean they can afford them.
What an uplifting story! Very much needed near the end of this year and an inspiration from which enter the new one.
It’s both heartwarming and embarassing to read, “… I also recognize that I have enormous privilege which eases my day-to-day life – privilege that Black people, indigenous people, and people of color are not afforded by default,” written by an immigrant, when so many people who were born here just (and still) don’t get it!
Keep up the good work, and here’s wishing you and your family a wonderful new year.
Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful letter. I have appreciated following your story along the way. I stumbled upon Marco Polo years ago, in its earliest days, as I was perusing through the App Store. I downloaded the app out of curiosity, told several of my out of state friends about it, and we haven’t turned back since. In fact, we joke that Polo has saved our friendships. 🙂 Not true, but certainly it has sustained, and even increased the depth and the intimacy that living miles apart can sometimes disrupt. I am endlessly grateful for polo, and for your business model, integrity and ongoing authenticity as you grow the business.
Paula, thank you so much for your support over the years. I love hearing that Marco Polo has helped you in your friendships, even if it didn’t actually save them :). Wishing you all the very best!
Marco Polo is so much better then text or phone calls or Skype, etc… You can see one another and hear one another when it is most convenient for both parties. Especially with time zone differences. Gratefully my daughter’s introduced me to your app.
I appreciated reading your.story, thank you so much for this wonderful way to communicate. My daughter was the first.to share it with me and now we connect almost every day. My son and family (3 grandchildren) live in Hawaii and I am in BC Canada. Not visiting would have been so tough except that through Marco Polo they have taken me with them on hikes and to the beach as well as shared the fun of baking cookies. In turn I take them for walks in snowy woods with my dogs. We will be joining your family plan in January. Happy New Year and thank you!
Vlada you and Michal are beautiful humans. I am honored to know you.
Thank you, for “for the Polo”. That’s what my, Special Needs, Son calls it. We tried your app. out of desperate need, in March, as he lives in Asst’d Living. It’s now a lifeline, for our family. He can see us, every day. We joined the family plan, last month. Very nice. Thank you. Happy New Year!
There is no doubt that Marco Polo has changed the way I interact with my friends. I’ve been using it for a very long time now, and I suspect I am one of your early users. I recently moved back to my home country (Israel) after 22 years in the US, and Marco Polo is allowing me to stay in touch with my friends even in different time zones. I have introduced it to many people here and I still use it daily.
Since I got your ear, I’ll take the opportunity to provide some constructive feedback as a 25 year software veteran who worked in Fortune 500 companies. The honest truth is that there is a little less love in my heart for MP at the end on 2020 than I had in the beginning, no doubt due to the forced upgrade to MP Plus. I say forced because you took away some crucial features like the ability to forward a polo and the fast forward, which rendered the app useless. Don’t get me wrong – I would have paid the upgrade fee anyway – I love the app and I think it’s worth it. But the way the upgrade was done left a bad taste in my mouth and I speak for many of my friends as well. You’ve change the rules midway (just like with the fact that now old messages are archived and you can’t get to the immediately) and it just seems out of left field, and has damaged the trust I had in MP as a customer and a loyal user.
Another important issue is the matter of streaming issues. Marco Polo is a messaging app, and I rely on it to communicate with my close community. there is nothing more frustrating than when an important message comes in and for some reason the message gets “stuck”. It happens a LOT, and many of my friends complain about it. It is not an internet connection issue. There is something going on with the algorithm that calculates the timestamp on the video as you watch. I know it because every time it gets stuck the timer stays on 0:00. It is very frustrating. I contacted your support a few times but was dismissed as a connection issue. If I am to trust Marco Polo as a communication app, I need to know the messages are there. It is fundamental. I simply cannot trust the app.
Lastly (there are a few things but I am choosing the most pressing ones) – I think that the choice to mark messages as “seen” when you move to the next message is fundamentally flawed. Many times I don’t have time to hear lengthy polos someone left me (it would be nice to always see the length BEFORE I click them) and yet I want to hear the most recent message. I would have organized the message differntly, as branches of conversation vs. a linear timeline. I will be happy to provide more insight but I am sure you know what I mean.
Vlada, Marco Polo is not just a messaging app. It allows the user to SEE THEMSELVES as they speak, which in turn allows them to develop a whole new side of their personality. We rarely see ourself speak. MP allows us to evaluate our own expressions, the brevity and succinctness of our speech, and the manner with which we communicate. It taught me to SMILE more. simply put, MP is a powerful consciousness development tool. When viewed as such, I believe required features would be prioritized quite differently.
I thank you for what you have created and the impact it had on my life.
P.S. OK, one more thing – I wish your recent app (MP channels?) was available to download as a knowledge management tool (and not just for courses you choose to offer yourself). I currently use Thinkific and I would have grandly paid the same fees to use your app.
Dear Erez, Dear Vlada,
Thanks for your feedback. I’m also an early adopter and Plus user, together with our Hebrew learning community, Holy Language Institute. I fully agree with your praise of the app, I think overall it’s a great enterprise, and a good decision to refrain from ads and instead opt for a Freemium model.
I also agree with your point of criticism regarding unwatched status. Polos should remain in that status as long as they are really unwatched. (a different color dot for a partially watched message would also be great).
I only started encountering “stuck” Polos recently, previously it had been working fine. Maybe it’s due to Joya’s servers being overloaded? The “stuck” Polo starts off showing as “live” (with the blue bar), even after re-starting several times, when clearly it isn’t live anymore (even now, a day later).
Also I’d like to ask, do I get fresh 2-month Plus passes to give away when my subscription renews? It’s the main peer-to-peer marketing mechanism for Plus, and I find the additionally purchasable 2-month passes somewhat overpriced. I’d be more inclined to purchase some, if they were about the same price as the regular Plus, not nearly twice as expensive.
Hi Mathias – thanks for your feedback, which we’ve shared with our product team. In answer to your question, yes, when you renew your Plus subscription, you are given 6 more Plus Passes.