What’s behind our smile on #WorldEmojiDay2017?

UPDATE: Donation made! Thanks to all of you who participated in your promotion and helped us bring smiles to children in need around the world.

Today our summer interns Madeline and Philip launched a social promotion with a cause, called #MyEmojiSmile.  It’s a simple request to like or share our social posts.  For each such action we make a donation to Operation Smile, which offers free surgeries (and other services) to disadvantaged children with cleft-lip around the world.  We did it because helping people in far-flung corners of the globe while bringing smiles to faces everywhere is core to what TripTuner is about.

The concept for TripTuner evolved out of a year spent traveling through developing nations around the world some 20 years ago.  To cope with language barriers, I often resorted to hand signals, pointing to signs or even making animal noises (to find out what meat lurked beneath an innocuous mound of curry on a roadside stand near Mount Kelimutu, Indonesia).  But the surefire way to smooth things out anywhere was always a simple, genuine smile.  In many places, it was also a modest way to bridge very sharp class differences.

My trip created a strong desire to somehow help less fortunate souls in distant lands through my business.  The demands of launching a bootstrapped startup however, provided a convenient excuse for neglecting that part of our mission…until a letter arrived that struck a nerve and compelled me to act.

At first it didn’t seem any different than the ask letters I received from Operation Smile before, or from other charities.  The text looked better than much of the computer-generated “authentic” handwriting you see these days.  It even had what looked like a hand-drawn flower on it.  But a phrase from Philipine of Madagascar caught my eye:  “My life before my operation was very sad and worst because some of my friends were always laughing at me” (because of her cleft lip).

I was eating lunch, so perhaps my mind was more open to appeals at that time but as a father, I imagined my daughter being in that situation.  It even brought back my own memories of being an awkward, buck-toothed kid in a new town.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s no comparison of my privileged childhood with this girl’s plight.  But that universal feeling of not being accepted resonated with me.  The fact that there’s zero chance Philipine or others like her could dream of having such a surgery made it an easy decision.  We were going to do something as a company.

Over that same lunch I learned about #WorldEmojiDay2017 – which is today (but you knew that, right?)  The image of a smiling emoji and the Operation Smile letter sparked an idea to help in a way that fits exactly with the type of company we want to be: one that makes people smile whether they travel or not.

So there’s still time for you to like or share our Facebook post.  Each time that happens we’ll add more to our donation…and any selfies acting as your fave emoji will get a bonus.  Thanks in advance for your thoughtful participation.   Well let you know how it turns out on our FB page.

Stay tuned,





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