My Startup: Socially
London is a lonely city.
This week (June 17th to 21st) is Loneliness Awareness Week. Socially, an app created by DJ Newman after being made aware of just how many people in the country struggle with isolation, is tackling the issue.
By verifying identities and letting people organise events with carefully chosen people they've contacted through the app, Socially has been designed to help people make new connections and try activities they might not previously have been able to.
Socially is currently in its pre-registration stages and is set to launch on a wider scale later in the year. With it, DJ hopes more Londoners will be able to put themselves out there and feel just a little less lonely.
Founder: DJ Newman
We spoke to DJ to learn about what's behind Socially.
Why did you start Socially?
It was personal experience really. I’d moved from Kent to London after a break-up and I didn’t know anyone in the area.
My good friends were starting families and I didn’t see them as often as I’d liked. With a busy nine-to-five, I had little time to invest in meeting new people - whether to grab a beer after work, play the sports I loved, or just widen my social networks. I had to resort to using dating apps (even though I wasn’t really interested in dating at that time) but the process is very time-consuming and can take an age to actually meet anyone.
Also, you’re dealing with time wasters, scammers and flat-out oddballs. Friend-finding apps just seemed too grubby, with low-grade ads and lots of flesh on show. I realised it was actually quite a lonely time. I created Socially off the back of that experience - to give others a different platform to put themselves out there, socially. To meet new people for friendship only, quickly and easily, with just a few clicks.
Tell us more about the tech behind the product.
Firstly, all users are verified, in-app, via their driving licence or passport during the onboarding process. This helps keep everyone honest and eradicates the scourge of fake profiles, scams and cat-fishing that are typically associated with things like dating platforms.
Users then create their profile, designed to give others a sense of who they (really) are. Options include image and video galleries, status posts and an Instagram feed - it’s up to them what information they put out there. Users can then either create a meet-up event or view a list of current meet-ups that have been posted by other Socially users that are happening across London within the next seven days.
These posts can be filtered by type, host (refined by gender and age), group size (one-to-one or up to five people max), date, time and location.
If a user sees an event of interest, they can view the host’s profile to establish common ground and then it’s a one-click request to join. The host receives an alert and they can then view the responder’s profile. The host has 24 hours to respond with either an automated or personalised decline message, or they can send the first message to the responder. Each person can then exchange up to 10 (text-only) messages to gauge compatibility and ask any questions, before being prompted if they want to meet.
If both users decide to meet, the event is removed from search results and users can then communicate further, in-app, to finalise plans.
Where are you at right now?
It’s pretty early for us. The pre-registration website went live just over a week ago but we’ve already had an impressive number of sign-ups without any marketing push at all - these have all been from organic traffic (I haven’t had friends or family sign-up yet, promise!) – so it seems people are searching for new connection apps or ways to meet new friends online which is very promising.
My minimum target is 3,000 pre-registrations across London within the next two to three months. That’s ambitious for a start-up with little to no marketing budget, but I certainly think it’s achievable. I’ll then decide whether to launch the app or continue to grow pre-registrations. My aim during this pre-reg phase is to secure seed funding to continue to develop and market the app, and establish a solid user base in London with a view to expanding across the UK within 12 months.
What's been the hardest thing about getting Socially off the ground?
For a non-technical solo founder, it’s been a challenge. Finding the right technical talent to bring your concept to life has been the hardest part.
I went through two agencies and four designers to get to this point. There’s a lot of over-promising and under delivering that goes on. Due diligence is key.
I have to take some of the blame though. I’m a typical Virgo and a bit of a perfectionist and, for me, nothing gets shipped without those little details and bugs being 100% right. That seemed to annoy people for some bizarre reason but I think the user experience is so much better because of that.
I’m currently looking for co-founder/CTO to join me on this adventure too!
Why should more people be using Socially?
Simply put, if you want to meet like-minded people - one-to-one or in small groups - who share similar interests, outlooks and lifestyles, but without all the faff, give Socially a try. It'll save you hours and hours of your life and you’ll have some amazing experiences.
A recent Time Out study concluded that London is the loneliest city on the planet with over two million people experiencing some form of loneliness. I think Socially could really help people - I know it would have helped me. All it takes sometimes is just some social stimulation, good conversation and a few laughs.
How much will it cost users, and why is it worth the investment?
I thought about this long and hard, and, based on user feedback and research, I've decided to charge a modest £5 per month subscription fee. This means we don’t have to fund the app with annoying ads, it keeps the time wasters at bay and adds another form of identification and security.
However, those who pre-register before October 2019 get their first four months free when we go live.
Try Socially out - what have you got to lose?
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