Alex Iskold had a chat with HeyLetsGo CEO and Co-founder Roy Rodenstein at DEMO last week. HeyLetsGo is claiming over 90,000 users in its initial launch location of Boston. It is the latest in a number of events-focused social networks. As GigaOm noted during DEMO, others include Renkoo, Socializr, Involver, Skobee. I think this type of product is interesting because it connects the online and offline worlds, which is especially relevant for the younger generation.
Alex: What is your company about?
Roy: At Demo we launched HeyLetsGo as the first social network designed to connect people face to face. More broadly we are about helping people enjoy all that their local area has to offer. This includes fun things to do, as well as interesting people to meet. If you want to know what's happening tonight, and who's going, we want you to think of us.
Screenshot of HeyLetsGo homepage
Alex: Why did you start this company?
Roy: We know from experience that any major city has many interesting things going on that you never hear about or miss, and so many interesting people that share your interests - yet it can be hard to meet people once you're out of college. So we thought, there's gotta be a better way. And then we found that our friends and others we surveyed felt the same way. People told us they missed when U2 was in town. That's the biggest band in the world, with a huge marketing machine behind it! Yet people told us they didn't hear they were in town, or they didn't know exactly when it was, or they couldn't get tickets, or their friends weren't interested in going with them. So, there's a whole set of things we feel we can do around all these issues, applying technology to help people enjoy life offline more.
Alex: What are you major accomplishments thus far?
Roy: Definitely gaining the user base and momentum we have achieved. Their validation is just tremendous. Someone new to town told us they could now have a housewarming party because of the people they met through HeyLetsGo. That's when we know we're doing something right :) Since we opened the site publically about 4 months ago we've reached over 90,000 users, which we feel is pretty good reach into the post-college demographic in a short time.
Alex: What is your rollout plan for HeyLetsGo?
Roy: We just officially launched in Boston, and we are starting to work on our San Francisco and New York sites. So if you're in SF or NY give us a month and then check us out. You can certainly use HLG in other places, we would just like to have good depth and a good user base before we really holla to everybody else to pile on!
Alex: How do you know (if) it's working?
Roy: We've asked that question of ourselves for a while, because we're pretty harsh critics of ourselves. But we have so many great stories now. Like people who hadn't seen each other in 10 and even 20 years running into each other at our parties. That's just cool. We just did a big party in Boston by Fenway Park, and we had over 5,000 RSVP on HeyLetsGo to come to the party. And thousands did show up! (see the pictures here). That tells us that yes, the online site really is bringing people together face to face.
Alex: What are your major challenges?
Roy: Our major challenge is mostly letting people find out about us. Most people who try HeyLetsGo like it, many love it. But most people simply are not aware of us yet. The other challenge, which I think we do well at but is a constant task, is being as true to users as possible, listening to them, incorporating feedback, and making sure we really are helping them make the most of their "real" lives rather than just creating an online site that doesn't have an impact.
Alex: What are you going to build in the next 12 months?
Roy: The best chocolate cake in the world! You didn't expect we'd tell you our product plans, did you? ;) Well, at a high level we feel there is so much more we can do in this space that there's really no shortage of things we're working on. Some of the basics we are still adding, like more RSS, embeddable widgets, better mobile support. And continuing to develop features like our Live Vibe to let people find out if an event is a hopping or DOA.
Alex: What is the most important thing for a start up to be successful?
Roy: Two things. First, find a problem people really care about. That's step 1, bar none. But after that, it's largely execution. Forget about grand visions, don't be dissuaded by early hiccups, don't be distracted by competitors. Build the smallest thing that starts to give people value, get it out, and each day chisel it a little bit more. If you got step 1 right, most other things will fall into place if you stay focused.
Alex: What web sites / blogs do you use / read often?
Roy: Not that I get to read these as often now, but here is a smattering:
Corante, Fred Wilson's A VC and Brad Feld's Feld Thoughts if you want to learn how VCs think, Read/WriteWeb and Mashable are among my favorite Web2/entrepreneurial oriented blogs because they go deeper than most, Jakob Nielsen's useit back in the day, and my friend Coach Wei's blog on how Web2 is perceived in the enterprise.
Alex: Which web 2.0 things are noise and which are signals?
Roy: I think highly interactive UIs, however they're built, are absolutely signal. I think web services and RSS have the potential to be signal, and hopefully will be within a year or two, but until my sister benefits from them (I'm not even sure she has heard of the terms themselves) I can't call it signal. What is noise? Frankly, all the talk about noise, bubbles... :)