For military families separated by distance or deployment, or living far from family and friends, the Marco Polo app is an incredible tool that helps them feel closer, have more meaningful friendships, and share their lives with those who matter most.
Long-distance communication: there’s an app for that
Although Marco Polo is a perfect app to solve communication challenges for military families, it was not created by a veteran. Vlada and Michal Bortnik co-founded the app 13 years ago when they were first starting a family. They knew that close relationships are the key to happiness, and they wanted that for their daughter. But with family members in the Ukraine and Poland, maintaining close relationships was a challenge.
In a video interview, Marco Polo CEO and Co-Founder Vlada Bortnik recalled, “We were trying to figure out how to keep in touch with our families, and emails and text messages weren’t cutting it. Video calls across time zones with multiple family members and friends became a challenging chore. The purpose [of Marco Polo] came from this. We wanted to help people feel close.”
Since Vlada and Michal both had a background in engineering and tech, they built the Marco Polo app to improve communication across long distances and time zones.
How the Marco Polo app brings people closer
Marco Polo allows users to record a live video message and share it with one person or with a group. Unlike other video platforms, users do not all have to be live at the same time. You can watch the videos and reply on your own schedule, or re-watch parts of a conversation.
Unlike other social media platforms, the videos aren’t shared publicly. Instead of aiming for more ‘likes,’ Marco Polo messages help people get to deeper, more meaningful conversations.
The app “blends time and distance to make you feel like the people you love are in your pocket,” Vlada says. And she believes that this kind of technology is more important than ever to help grow meaningful friendship—whether friends are located down the street or in another country.
“It’s the reality of life right now that there isn’t much time for friendships. When we prioritized text messages over phone calls, we prioritized quantity over quality,” Vlada explains. “12% of Americans say they have 0 friends. Absolutely none. 56% say they are lonely. People aren’t having meaningful conversations on their own time.”
Through the app, people now have numerous ways to connect with each other, no matter the distance between them. Understandably, Marco Polo has become increasingly popular in the military community.
Military families use Marco Polo in unique ways
Meagan Allers, Head of Partnerships and Community at Marco Polo, shared some of the ways military families are staying connected with the app:
- Zach, a young, single Air Force officer stationed in Korea, used Polos to stay in touch with family back home, and even received one from his 102-year-old grandmother!
- Neighbors who get PCS orders to different locations are forming Sharecast groups so they can all stay in touch.
- Amber, a military spouse, uses Marco Polo to record her children’s developmental milestones while her Army husband is away training. And she has family members create Polos of their Christmas celebrations, so she and the kids can watch them in their own time zone.
- Kenneth suffered from PTSD and had tried different groups and therapies that weren’t working. But when he got his battle buddies together on Marco Polo, he found he wasn’t suffering the same effects anymore.
- To combat the rate of suicide in the military community, one user is organizing small groups called “Life Guards” to use Marco Polo and check in with each other.
- Deployed service members without internet access are recording messages offline, like a video journal. Once they reconnect to wi-fi, everything will get uploaded at once and sent to their families.
- Milspouse businesses are using the app for client interactions and coaching discussions.
- Jake, an Air Force flight nurse deployed to Quatar, used Sharecast videos to share deployment moments with his friends and family back home.
- Someone even arranged a scavenger hunt through Marco Polo to welcome new families to their on-base neighborhood!
Free Plus Passes for the military community
Because Marco Polo is creating so many meaningful connections in the military community, the company wants to make sure everyone has access to it. The basic app is free to everyone. There is a Plus subscription with additional features like the Sharecast group chats, controlling the play speed of videos, sending photo messages, forwarding messages, and more.
Marco Polo is offering all members of the military community a free 2-month Plus Pass at https://community.marcopolo.me/military.
Vlada hopes that service members and families will continue to find creative ways to use Marco Polo and stay connected. She says, “Technology can be really magical and good for you! On days when you are feeling down, having that connection makes all the difference. All you have to do is click one button, and you’ll feel closer and better.”