January 16, 2012
It’s Friday. Your plans just fell through. It’s 8pm – the night isn’t getting any younger. You’ve worked hard all week, and you’re determined play. You don’t know what to do. More accurately, you don’t know what there is to do.
Sponto does. This DC-headquartered, location-based social networking mobile app allows users to see what events are currently trending in their proximity.
“Sponto is for people who want to get out and are looking for what to do next. Use Sponto to interact with the people at the event RIGHT NOW rather than just reading a venue revue or canned description,” says Sponto CEO and Founder Jamey Harvey.
What originally began as a college-only networking service, Sponto has recently opened its doors to all DC residents with an Android phone (iPhone version coming soon) and a Facebook account, as Sponto runs on the Facebook API. There were many reasons for the transition to an open community:
“We learned the way college students use their .EDU email addresses has changed a lot since 2003,” Harvey said. “We had an unusually large amount of users getting hung up in registration, and we didn’t have any control over making that work. Additionally, one of our college evangelists arranged for me to come and do some classic, lean customer development and learning at a house party he was hosting at the University of Maryland. While I was on my way I got a call from him. His housemates sat him down for an intervention beforehand and begged him not to bring his middle aged boss to their party. We realized then that we had chosen a battleground where we were systemically at a disadvantage….We moved on down the road to a more open ecosystem.”
Some might find it interesting that Sponto has decided to first open up their service to Android instead of iOS. When questioned on this, Harvey sited three reasons for this approach: competency, volume, and opportunity. “Our core team has been working in Android since the 1.0 version and know it inside and out, whereas we’ve always outsourced our iOS development. While this was really contrarian when we started, the macro numbers bear out this decision nicely. I agree with Eric Schmidt that launching Android first will begin to be the new normal after the next SXSW. Lastly, iPhone early adopters are pretty burnt out on being asked to download their friends’ social apps. Android users are actually still excited.”
Although Sponto is currently only active in the DC area, look for their national release in mid-February.
The desire for a mobile app dedicated to finding the party is there. Last year, Hurricane Party, a mobile app allowing users to quickly create an event and invite friends as well as receive discounts directly from the particular venue, won the “hottest startup at SXSW” poll, beating out the likes of Uber and Instagram. Since, however, Hurricane Party has lost traction. René Pinnell, Hurricane’s founder, has turned his efforts toward Forecast, a service that allows users to notify friends of future check-ins.
It will be interesting to see exactly how Sponto plans on separating itself from the pack. In order for this new social service to blossom, Sponto will need to give users reason to deviate from their current social mobile routine. Without a significant differentiator between Harvey’s vision and features such as trending venues in Foursquare or the “nearby” tab on the Facebook mobile app, Sponto may fail to gain traction as well.
What do you think? Would you use a dedicated mobile events application, or does Facebook and Foursquare do a good enough job as is? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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