College Messaging App DormChat Takes On Yik Yak With Backing From ff Venture Capital

DormChat aims to give people a new way to message each other that’s location-based and anonymity-optional — and it’s starting with college students.

The iOS app was released earlier this year and is already available on more than 200 college campuses, including founder Adam Michalski’s alma mater Penn State. Michalski said that following that initial rollout, DormChat has now released “the whole damn product,” including a spiffed-up version for iOS and its first app for Android.

The company is also announcing that it has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from New York-based firm ff Venture Capital, with ffVC’s John Frankel joining its board of directors.

The big player here is Yik Yak, a popular, anonymous, and college-focused messaging app that recently raised $10 million. So what makes DormChat different from all the other the other messaging apps, particularly Yik Yak?

Well, Michalski said DormChat gives its messages context — users don’t just share their thoughts with everyone nearby, but instead create chatrooms based around topics and locations (like, you guessed it, a dorm). Then anyone within about three miles can read and post in those rooms. (And if you do want an unfiltered glimpse at everything posted nearby, you can also bring up the Recent Feed.)

As I mentioned, anonymity is optional — all users must create a profile, and they need a university email address to do so, but they can switch between posting from those profiles and from anonymous handles that the app automatically creates for them. Users can also post photos, block other users, and start private, direct message conversations with each other.

The result, Michalski said, is that “we haven’t had a lot of the same issues as Yik Yak” — referring, presumably, to recurring concerns about cyberbullying.

Michalski sees college campuses as the starting point for DormChat, and that’s where he’s keeping his focus for now, but he said it could eventually go broader.

This kind of location-based conversation could be relevant to everyone, he argued. Imagine, for example, that you found a tagless dog walking around your neighborhood’s — you’re probably not Facebook friends with everyone in the area, and knocking on everyone’s door might not be effective or even feasible. So what if you could post a message to what Michalski envisions as the “open forum that’s just for your local area”?