AllGo, currently fundraising on Kickstarter, is a review platform for the plus-size community to evaluate the accessibility and comfort of restaurants, airlines, theaters and gyms
Rebecca Alexander couldn’t really enjoy her post-high school graduation trip to Six Flags.
She was too consumed with “playing Russian roulette” each time she approached a new ride: “Am I going to get to go and enjoy this and have a great time, or am I going to walk the walk to the seat, realize that the bar is not going to go down over my body, and then have to walk the walk of shame back past all my friends, all my classmates?” she told Moneyish. “I’m a confident person, but damn, that kind of humiliation gets to you.”
That dread trailed her through adulthood, on business meetings and OKCupid first dates. “I would immediately get anxious because I worried that if I didn’t arrive 20 minutes early to pick out my favorite seat, I might get there and have to have our first interaction be me explaining that I couldn’t fit, so could we please go somewhere else,” said Alexander, now 30 and living in Portland, Ore.
As she scoured the internet ahead of each outing to a new place, she learned how hard it was to find the information she needed. “Do you know how many photos of ravioli you have to look through before you find one of a chair?” she said.
Enter AllGo, a review platform app co-founded by Alexander and business partner Michele Amar to rate places like restaurants, gyms, theaters and airlines on their accessibility and comfort for people of size. Their Kickstarter campaign, with its all-or-nothing deadline of 2:59 a.m. ET on April 9, had reached more than $49,450 of its $50,000 fundraising goal as of this writing — attracting more than 1,000 backers and kudos from the likes of author Roxane Gay and plus-size model Tess Holliday, among others.
AllGo will allow plus-size folks — “and the people who love us” — to rate businesses and other public spaces on factors like whether chairs have arms, whether tables and booths move, aisle width, parking, stairs and “environmental, atmospheric factors,” like whether a hostess deferred to a person of size on seat selection or made them uncomfortable.
“People want to hear that someone like them was comfortable. They want to know that somebody of their body size and shape went somewhere and was able to fit into the booth, or thought that their chair was sturdy,” Alexander said. “When you’re going out with friends and family, the question is: ‘Can we all go?’ And we really want the answer to that to be ‘yes’ all the time.”
Alexander and Amar met Sept. 28, a date they’ve dubbed their company’s “birthday.” Though they received an unsolicited venture investment offer in December, Alexander said, such an opportunity “comes with expectations of very fast growth — and we wanted to make sure that we were going to be able to design around the data that we were getting from our users, primarily.” They decided crowdfunding was the best way to get validation from the community they seek to serve.
The app will be free, Alexander said, soliciting ad money from businesses that are serving the plus-size community. It will not, however, feature ads for weight-loss programs. “We’re about expanding worlds, not shrinking bodies,” Alexander said. And AllGo will aim to give businesses “constructive criticism,” she added, not trash them: “We don’t want to become a place where small businesses that may or may not even know they have this problem get put on blast,” she said.
The co-founders have so far conducted a good deal of user research — including a crowdsourced Google Sheet with responses from 200 people who self-identified as “fat” — and designed wireframes and a prototype. Having identified a development team, Alexander said, they’re currently community building and planning to launch a public beta version to the Portland market in August. From there, they’re eyeing a launch to five other regions — based on “a variety of factors, including interest” — by early 2019.
“The one hitch is that we have to get this Kickstarter done before handing off the wireframes to the developers,” Alexander said. “We can hand them off, but we have to pay them.”
More than a third of U.S. adults (36.5%) are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a segment of the population Alexander laments is “very underserved in the marketplace.” “Some people call this a niche product because we’re designing for the fat community, but the fat community is not really small enough to be niche,” she said. “This market is huge.”
Alexander, who admits she has leaned into puns in the process, says working on the app has put her more at ease talking about her own size. And she’s comfortable using the “fat,” she added, “because it’s what I am and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I’m also blonde. And I have green eyes. These are all just ways to describe my body.”
As for AllGo’s natural extension to people who are differently abled, suffer from chronic pain or have trouble hearing, Alexander says she and Amar “absolutely see that future for our product.”
“We all live intersectional lives, and so we can’t create an app for fat people here and then refer them to an app for wheelchair users somewhere else on the internet,” she said. “We’re starting here so we can make sure that we have a successful launch and that we can get the kind of widespread user adoption that we need. But we fully intend to answer the question, ‘Can we all go?’”
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