While popular location-based social app Yik Yak struggles amid controversy and on-campus bannings, a newcomer called Spayce is gearing up to compete with its own take on local social networking. Its few-weeks-old app forgoes anonymity by default, and instead encourages community members to share their photo and video “memories” happening around a given location, whether that’s a city, college campus, neighborhood or even a particular venue.
According to Spayce’s 22-year-old founder and CEO Patrick Colangelo, a Harvard grad who started the app from his dorm room, Spayce is about bringing people closer together, while also tapping into human’s innate curiosity about what’s happening in the world around them.
“It’s human nature to want to know what’s happening [in a given location], and what’s happened there in the past,” he claims. “And that will govern whether you stay, or if you choose to leave.”
The idea is that users could launch the app to see what’s going on at a local bar, for example, or whether there’s a great party taking place down the road. More importantly, perhaps, the app (at scale) would show you who’s there now, in real-time, and what they’re up to.
If those sorts of concerns – finding tonight’s cool hotspot or hangout, that is – strike you as something that seem a bit more relevant to the 20-something college student, that’s because they are. But over time, the app’s user base could grow to include real-time feeds that attract a wider audience.
For example, Spayce could be adopted by users who serve up local recommendations, similar to Yelp, like what’s good to try at a restaurant; musicians could post links to their albums on the feed for a local bar; sports enthusiasts could post to Spayce with their insights on today’s big game, etc. The goal, explains Colangelo, is that, eventually, everyone could be found on Spayce.
The app uses a “follower” model like Twitter’s, and has grown to just under 40,000 users since its debut only a few weeks ago. That’s thanks, in part, to Colangelo’s efforts in marketing the app in-person on college campuses. Specifically, the app has growing traction at around 150 colleges in New York and New Jersey in particular, though the app is usable anywhere in the U.S. as of today.
Colangelo says the college tour has allowed him to get user feedback in person, and they’re already preparing to roll out an updated app in response to some initial concerns and requests. In about a week’s time, the app will include a more streamlined process for posting these photo “memories,” an easier way to geotag them, and a private chat option.
Plus, it will add a “montage” feature, which is sort of like a Snapchat Story that lives in the public domain. These montages will aggregate Spayce’s content around a given location, allowing users to sit back and watch things happening around them – even from their couches at home.
The idea that the world needs a “Twitter for locations,” so to speak, is one that’s been tried for years on end but had yet to take off, at least until Yik Yak came around. But even that app’s popularity is largely due to its salacious, gossipy content and users’ ability to hide their identities. The pull of anonymity has helped Yik Yak grow quickly, but possibly, unsustainably.
Spayce, on the other hand, has its users initially identifying themselves by name and competing to create quality content for others to consume thanks to its included star rating system. Once they have proven themselves by earning enough stars, they can then unlock the ability to share anonymous memories, too. That’s an interesting twist on the anonymous-by-default model and could encourage a different kind of community and vibe.
In its early days, Spayce has been adding over 4,500 users daily and sees the average user opening the app five times per day, the company claims.
Now a team of 10 and headquartered in San Francisco, Spayce has raised $2.5 million from one wealthy Harvard angel investor (who apparently has an appetite for risk). Also on the team are Dartmouth grad Chris Taylor, Spayce’s lead engineer, and head of strategy Sinjin Lee, a founding member at Grooveshark.
The app is a free download on iTunes.