Q&A With Whisper CEO Michael Heyward: We Are Your 'Stranger on a Train'

Entrepreneur: How much sharing on Whisper do you think is real and how much is fake?

Heyward: It’s all real. There’s no social capital being exchanged on Whisper, so you don’t have followers. There’s no links. There’s no persistent identity, so you’re not gaining anything. So, generally there’s very little to be gained by not not telling the truth. Sometimes people post things as they wish they were. For example, there was a post very early on and the user was a girl who was talking about how she thought girls in wheelchairs are really attractive. I was like, “This is some creep. We have to him off of here.” Then I was looking at other users’ posts and actually that was just a girl in a wheelchair who was trying to make herself feel like the object of affection. When an 18-year-old girl who is paralyzed and will never walk posts something like that, it is the truth and it’s a projection of her truth.

Related: Tinder Co-Founder Sean Rad on the Hot Dating App's Viral Success

Entrepreneur: Before launching Whisper, did you consult with legal counsel about potential legal pitfalls? What if a user admits to something illegal or says they're going to do something dangerous? Are you compelled to report shares of that nature to authorities?

Heyward: We obviously comply with all legal requests and we have a whole team of people that exclusively focus on community safety. Some instances we proactively report to law enforcement, like anything involving a minor or any form of child abuse. We always proactively report that and it goes to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, as well as local law enforcement.

[Writer’s note: If a Whisper sharer posts suicidal thoughts or seems otherwise at-risk, the app’s nonprofit mental health awareness initiative Your Voice steps in to help.]  

Entrepreneur: What’s next for Whisper? Are there any new features or partnerships or other news you’d like to share?

Heyward: What’s next for us is what’s always next, which is providing a great, awesome experience for our users. There are always new things coming, though nothing specific to talk about right now, but there’s always new stuff. We’re just trying to make the world suck less.

Entrepreneur: Do you personally use Whisper on a regular basis, outside of a professional capacity, with your work hat off, so to speak?

Heyward: Every day. Yes, all day, every day.

Entrepreneur: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out in the tech industry, who are entering the crowded app market and hoping to standout?  

Heyward: Stay focused on your goals and what you’re trying to do, right then in that moment, always…. literally incredibly laser-focused. You’ll have so many ideas, but what makes a good entrepreneur is someone who knows how to say no to most of their ideas and just focus on the ones that are going to have the highest impact.

Related: The 25 Best Cities for Tech Startups

Too many people spend too much time thinking about their ideas and plans and not actually enough time doing. Instead of writing up all these plans …. business plans and PowerPoint presentations and lists, just focus on what your actual goal is and just do it.

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Kim Lachance Shandrow is a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com. 

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