Michael Fairclough is a believer in the ‘better angels’ of human nature. Two years ago, he founded Good Peeps, a digital platform that gives people who find lost items a way to return them.
“We feel there’s dormant goodwill that goes unused because we simply don’t have a mechanism for allowing it,” he said. “So Good Peeps came out of this idea that most people would gladly return a lost item.”
CEO Fairclough said Good Peeps was born from a pursuit to explore ways digital technology could contribute to the benefit to society.
“I wanted to work on ideas that were a way of expressing values – human values that could be applied in real world ways in businesses,” he said.
Good Peeps’ platform differs from other technologies that help return lost items, such as Apple AirTags or Tile, which aid owners find their lost items. Good Peeps helps finders return lost items by offering them a way to contact the owner.
The platform is simple: Owners place stickers with QR codes on their important items – backpacks, digital cameras, chargers, laptops, etc. Those codes are recorded and connected to a cell number and or email address. If a person finds the lost item, they scan the code and the Good Peeps platform connects the finder to the owner to then work out a plan to return the item – all without either side sharing their personal information like phone number or address.
“It’s natural to want to return a lost item, but unnatural to want to put personal information on your items,” Fairclough said. “This is something where digital can benefit because digital can provide this little cloak of privacy, yet still allow for the assumption of goodwill.”
If people want to share their contact information, it is possible, although not encouraged, Fairclough said. A more stringent guideline is that people do not publicize that they returned an item.
“The finder doesn’t receive any kind of badge or reward – it just takes the good right out of it once we sort of create a game or incentivize the deed,” he said.
Real World Results
Good Peeps is still in pre-launch but has recently raised some capital from an investment group that gave the Carlsbad-based startup “enough support to carry us through,” Fairclough said. “With Good Peeps we feel we have a product that is on point, we’ve tested it we know people return lost items.”
For the past two years, Good Peeps has been working on testing and researching the behavior of losing and returning items – which has shown interesting results.
In early April, Fairclough sent a team of part time employees, mostly teenagers in Boy Scouts, to “lose” around 115 items throughout Carlsbad and Encinitas. Of those items, 48 were found by people who contacted Good Peeps; 36 items were returned; for six items, Good Peeps didn’t go back to collect them; for three items, the company is still in contact with the finder; and for the final three items, the returns were “stalled,” meaning Good Peeps showed up to retrieve the item but it wasn’t where the finder said it would be.
“We’re learning in the real world what might happen,” Fairclough said, adding that the company is using the findings to come up with customer service responses to address the various issues they come across.
Interesting Research Findings
Other findings include employees – like baristas at coffee shops – are the most likely to find and return an item, as are younger people, who are more familiar and comfortable with technology. Where items are lost also makes a difference.
“The best place to lose something? The library. 100% of the items we lost at libraries have come back. The worst place to lose something? Batiquitos Lagoon. We’re zero for five at Batiquitos,” Fairclough said, adding that Good Peeps plans to continue the research and ultimately publish the results with more data on the company blog.
The research was also helpful to Good Peeps in other ways.
“With the methodology that we have, it allowed us to grow through some really fast iterations and real-world testing for me on the design side of the stickers – what worked, what didn’t work, large QR codes, small call to actions versus bigger call to actions with smaller codes,” said Lucien Vink, Good Peeps lead designer.
Vink said Good Peeps went through five of six different sticker designs and along the way included things like the company website so people can go to it “and see it’s legit” before scanning the code.
Good Peeps is also researching the customer service responses of other companies – “scoping out the competition to see what they’re doing and see if we can better our own business to compete with them,” said Support and Service Manager Alex Gordon, a high school senior Boy Scout who was initially hired at Good Peeps to lose items.
With enough research completed and design work done, Good Peeps is ready to launch, Fairclough said. The company is going to first focus on business-to-consumer sales by marketing to the younger demographic that the research revealed would be most likely to use the platform.
Fairclough plans on hiring more young part timers to sell sheets of Good Peeps stickers at farmers markets and he’s already tapped a Carlsbad high school student who made a series of short films to reach out to that demographic through TikTok and Instagram.
After the B2C launch, Good Peeps will then kick off a B2B strategy with stickers designed for the golf community with the goal of selling sticker packs at golf pro shops.
“People lose golf clubs all the time and it’s so irritating,” Fairclough said. “If you go to any clubhouse, it’s full of lost golf clubs. They find them and bring them in, but nobody knows who they belong to.”
Other B2B marketing plans include stickers for camping gear that could sell at outdoor retail stores.
“People lose stuff camping all the time and stewardship is sort of embedded in the camping culture – a care and general concern for the well-being of the environment and your fellow camper,” Fairclough said. “A lot of this is just Boy Scout values.”
CEO: Michael Fairclough
Business: Digital platform for connecting finders of lost items with their owners.
Notable: The Good Peeps platform allows users to return items without divulging personal information.