Written by: Madeleine Chan, Staff Writer
Founded by SFU alumni Eric Smith, JigSwap is a mobile app in the making that will allow users to trade completed puzzles with people nearby.
Smith stated in an interview with The Peak that he came up with the idea for the app during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was the beginning of quarantine and I found myself bored and not knowing what to do. So I decided to solve a thousand piece Harry Potter puzzle, and after completing the puzzle I came to the realization that I had to tear it apart and put the pieces back in the box, I couldn’t frame it, it took up a lot of space [ . . . ] I thought puzzles deserved to be solved more than once.”
He described that through the app people can upload a photo of their “recently completed puzzle, [ . . . ] see all the puzzles in your neighbourhood that are nearby,” and “request to swap with someone.”
“It’s kind of like Tinder, but for puzzles.”
Smith mentioned that this reduces the personal cost of buying a new puzzle and also reduces the environmental impact from manufacturing new puzzles.
“I think in today’s society we are so quick to go on Amazon and Walmart to buy new, but I don’t think we should be doing that. I think we should be supporting local and encouraging more sharing within the community.”
Once the company becomes profitable through ad revenue, Smith plans to donate partial proceeds to organizations that help autistic communities, including SFU’s Autism and Developmental Disorders Lab.
“It’s kind of like Tinder, but for puzzles.” -Eric Smith, founder of jigswap.
“It’s something that’s near and dear to my heart because I have an autistic family member and he is a passionate puzzle solver himself.”
The puzzle piece was first claimed as a symbol for autism in 1963 by a board member for the National Autistic Society in London due to their belief that people with autism “suffered from a ‘puzzling’ condition.” It has since been criticized by people with autism for improperly representing them and being a prop for corporate advertising.
Smith noted that the puzzle piece has been recognized as “a very ableist symbol” but that its symbolism can also be a “very powerful way of raising awareness.”
“I didn’t want my company or the puzzle symbol to symbolize autism because a lot of autistic people reject the symbol. However I did want to start a conversation, raise awareness of autism, and hopefully focus more on autism acceptance [ . . . ] I think it’s a really important conversation for neurotypical people to have.”
Smith continued: “And some autistic people have no issue with [the symbol]. At the end of day, I think to support and properly represent autistic people, I would encourage others to ask them what language and symbols they prefer using.”
Long term, Smith hopes that the app will “connect the puzzle community around the world.”
“I would love to see it downloaded in several different countries where no matter what city you are in you can log on to the app and easily see a puzzle that’s nearby, maybe within walking distance, and who knows? Maybe people can end up making really good friends through a shared love of puzzles.”
Smith anticipates that the app will be ready to launch by August 15, but could be ready sooner. More information is available at www.jigswapapp.com.