The idea for this app came from a conversation that a friend and I had about the difficulty in making friends as an adult. We recognized this pain within our own experiences, especially during times where we found ourselves moving to a new city. We recognized that there were avenues in which one could meet new people, but the challenge was in building the sort of deeper connections that lead to genuine friendships.
We started off by doing some research into this problem and discovered a wealth of information regarding the topic of loneliness. Loneliness is a major problem that affects the mental health of a large segment of the population, but due to the stigma associated with it, it is largely ignored. It’s especially true that men in our age group are particularly impacted by this problem, which validated our suspicions.
With these insights in hand, we then proceeded to come up with a hypothesis for the problem that we were solving as well as a potential solution. We believed that the folks who were feeling this pain the most were introverts who tended towards more geeky pursuits. This led us to narrow our focus to the tabletop gaming community. We reached out to different online communities to seek out volunteers to interview. After interviewing nearly 20 people, we used the insights we gathered to develop personas for our target market.
After validating that the problem was one worth pursuing, it was time to take a look at the competitive landscape. I created a table that accounted for a myriad of factors that would allow us to assess the competitive landscape. This provided us with useful information when we began ideating our solution and determining which features would ensure that we stood out from the crowd.
We focused on the must-have features in order to determine what our MVP would be. The idea was that someone could create a simple profile that included their interests, their location, and their general availability, and the app would recommend chat groups for them to join. At that point, the groups would be encouraged to coordinate a regular time and place to meet to participate in the shared interest. We believed that testing whether or not this would actually work would serve as the proof-of-concept for an app that could make the whole process frictionless.
I proceeded to create a mock-up of our concept on Proto.io. I then took that mock up and presented it to different people, including some that we had interviewed, in order to gather feedback and tweak the concept.
Once we had a solid idea of what our prototype should look like, we had to determine how we were going to build it. At first, I attempted to figure out if it was possible to build a solution using off-the-shelf software that didn't require any sort of coding. I figured out that we would not be able to achieve what we wanted to in that manner so I then decided to take on the challenge of developing it on my own. I enrolled myself into a Udemy course and over a period of many frustrating weeks was able to build a (mostly) functioning prototype using Node, React, and Redux. It was quite a challenge and involved making use of Google’s Places API, GroupMe’s API, and multiple tables in Airtable (which I used as my backend).
I tested it with some friends but when we got to the point of trying to share it with a larger audience, we realized that for an idea like this we faced the Catch-22 problem of a social network: in order to get users, you need to have users. The application wouldn't be useful until there was a critical mass of people on it. Unfortunately, in order to achieve that it would require a huge marketing push - which required funding and resources which we did not have. At that point I had to shelve the project because I was still on the job search and had to focus on acquiring income. I hope to return to it some day.