At SocialDevCamp Chicago, I caught up with Jason Goodrich. Jason is one of the people behind A Space Apart, an app that aims to connect people in intimate spaces. Part deal finder part connector, A Space Apart joins a sea of location specific tools. Will I use ASA at a bar? Not sure. Would I play with the app at a conference? Yes. Here's how my chat went with Jason.
CTR: How long has ASA been around?
JG: The concept was born in spring of 2009. Development started in September, and we incorporated in Jan. of 2010. We just launched the mobile platform in August at SocialDevCamp Chicago. People were so excited by the possibilities of connecting everyone at the event.
CTR: How many people are working on the app?
JG: Four people, including myself, plus a three-person advisory board. I'm looking to expand both groups.
CTR: So you're hiring. Which specific positions?
JG: I'm looking for a kick ass Django/Python engineer, a mobile engineer, a graphic designer with programming experience, and sales and marketing folks. We're getting ready to rumble!
CTR: What challenge does your product solve?
JG: For individuals, it answers questions like: "Who's here? What's going on? What's there to do?" Then it enables them to engage others—including businesses and organizers—in more relevant ways. We're finding that when people share public-facing information in an environment where everyone has buy-in to be there, their curiosity gets the better of them and they interact more, spend more time and money there. It can seed real community.
For businesses, it connects them with their customers like never before. They become more important social and business hubs by being more engaged in the conversations surrounding their business and empowering customers to get what they want. Business owners profit from increased traffic and sales. We're helping them build their business through direct, sustained customer engagement.
CTR: Who uses A Space Apart?
JG: Right now we're focusing on business and networking events, so mostly attendees of conferences and meetups. We get a lot of crucial feedback from a large number of people very quickly this way. It's perfect for getting to know people at networking events. Our proof of concept, however, was conducted in an environment we expect to make up the bulk of our users: the places we go every day such as cafes, restaurants, bars, schools, even workplaces. A Space Apart is made for any place people gather for a purpose.
CTR: How have you gotten the word out?
JG: So far, we've just used word of mouth. Since we're still in beta stage, we don't need or want to shout from the rooftops. Not yet. I think building reputation slowly at first will pay off in other people shouting from their network rooftops at the right time.
CTR: What makes you awesome?
JG: Ha! OK, I think what makes A Space Apart awesome is that it's useful and relevant. It helps them navigate and expand their world with local knowledge. It acts as that magic remote control we all wish we had whenever we go someplace. It's awesome because it starts with the individual and their needs—including privacy and respect. It's awesome because it gives businesses an instant online presence with the people who matter most to them: their loyal and potentially loyal customers; They will do all the work of creating new loyal customers.
CTR: What are your thoughts in basing your business in Chicago?
JG: I live here, first off. Second, my business can be based anywhere, so why not the third largest American city? The Midwest is a great barometer for consumer tastes and trends, not to mention social commerce innovation. Groupon, Orbitz, 37 Signals, Threadless...I like the company we're in. I think Chicago is vastly underrated right now, but that won't last long. For now we can over-deliver and build steam. From my vantage point, we don't seem to be lacking for much, if you know where to look.
CTR: What are your favorite Chicago startups or events?
JG: Man, so many awesome ones now. The companies I mentioned earlier, plus Sprout Social, which helps small businesses manage their social media efforts;ScaleWell is a great example of the new ethos of crowd-supporting scalable businesses; Foodie Registry replaces the chafing dish as wedding "gift" with a culinary experience that extends the couple's honeymoon.
For events, I think midventuresLAUNCH on Sept. 27-28 is going to introduce a lot of people to the real power of Midwest startups. A Space Apart will play a big role connecting the 3,000 attendees before and during the event, which is incredibly exciting; SocialDevCamp Chicago continues to set the pace for relevant tech events in Chicago; ChicagoTechMeetup has something like 700 members of really driven techies. If they can host at least once a quarter, it will keep fostering community and more ideas. And, of course, TechCocktail continues to engage new and veteran players. Frank (Gruber) and Eric's (Olsen) homegrown tech party just went worldwide. That's impressive.
CTR: What would you like readers to walk away with?
JG: Ask yourself: What would I do with a magic remote control in the places I go? Then send your answers to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll get the genie right on it!
CTR: Thanks for chatting, Jason!
JG: Back at you, Blagica! Thanks.