October 24, 2014
Anonymity is the new black. Or the new red. Or…what colors are in right now – metallics? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere – Pinterest, maybe. Whatever. When it comes to the world off online communication, it seems that more and more people are wanting to identify as random Internet ghost as opposed to being representing themselves truthfully. Yesterday, DormChat, an app aimed at connecting college students to their local communities through public chatrooms, launched a major iOS update and released a version for Android, as well as announced the closing of a seed round of funding from ff Venture Capital.
Founded by Penn State alumnus, Adam Michalski, and based in Hoboken, New Jersey, DormChat serves as platform for students to engage in conversations happening in their college campuses and local communities. Only available to college students (those with a college email address), DormChat features various chatrooms around local places or topics of interest. Discussions on the app are within approximately a 3-mile radius of a user’s location, and he/she can choose to use their real identification or use an anonymous handle.
“Yik Yak’s product design makes it more of a bathroom stall while DormChat is really a bulletin board,” said Michalski. “DormChat is about communicating and connecting with students nearby. If you have a conversation that’s going well, you have the ability to take into a direct message to continue the convo in a private forum.”
Just three days ago, Yik Yak was featured in The Guardian – what is it? Who uses it? What is Internet? The app has gained a lot of traction across college campuses in the United States, and everyone is hoping to get a better sense of why? Honestly, I think that an aversion to self-identity has become a trademark (albeit detrimental) aspect of our modern society – an inability to own up to our own opinions or to face who we truly are. Regardless, the appeal of anonymity has increased dramatically. DormChat aims to hop on the anonymity, but at the same time provide college students with an opportunity to actually connect.
“Where sharing via anonymous is beneficial in many instances, having a profile gives them the optionality that they’ve demanded, and frankly haven’t been offered by any product in the local communication space.”
One of the main features of DormChat is the ability for users to actually choose whether or not to be anonymous or to disclose their real identities. In an app world being dominated by anonymous-this and anonymous-that, the option to do this signals a slight return to the essentials of what it means to be human.
“People have always wanted to communicate and connect with their local communities,” said Michalski. “It’s part of our human nature…We’re finally at a moment in time where the demand for the ability to communicate and connect locally is so high that it’s only a matter of time before the best solution rises to the top. We’re hell-bent on solving this problem and will continue to hone our product to make sure we’re the best service in the space. We’re only in the first inning of seeing the market play out but are very confident that we can solve this ubiquitous need and by doing so, change the way the world communicates for the better.”
And DormChat is certainly doing its best to spread its influence in this space. After a few months, the app has already spread to more than 200 colleges across the U.S. With this recent financing – which brought along with it the addition of ff Venture Capital partner, John Frankel, to the company’s Board of Directors – DormChat hopes to continue improving their current products and scale their operations.
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