Have you ever been online mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed or repeatedly clicking the next YouTube video? Of course you have. Every mobile app and website is designed to keep you inside that platform, exposing you to its advertising. You interact with the digital platform and not other users.
But this isn’t quite the case with the new Austin-centric mobile app, Pulsr. Co-founders Ivan Lay, Tyler McReynolds, Grant Campbell, and Patrick Coffey certainly want you to use their “social discovery” app, but when you’re done, they want you to experience the world around you.
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Pulsr is aimed at helping you get out of your phone and into meaningful human interactions at bars, restaurants, concerts, meetups, and other social scenes. In short, you find what appeals to you, and you go. Rather than typing at people on Facebook or Twitter, you can use Pulsr to find events and places for interacting with people while enjoying a nice drink, tasty meal, musical performance, or group activity.
“I’m less interested in what people say about the app and more interested in what they do with it,” Coffey told Austin.com. “I want them to be able to find something to do and enter that experience through our application seamlessly, then close it and put the phone away.”
The app has two modes: explore and pulse. With the explore function, you get a personalized list of recommendations for events, locations, and activities. Pulsr learns what you like and recommends things to do based on what you’ve done in the past and what’s buzzing on social media. The pulse mode gives you an overview of the nearby ambient social dialogue. You can see what’s hot in your neck of the woods and in other parts of town.
Like most entrepreneurs, the Pulsr founders saw a gap the market wasn’t filling. Social media apps help you connect with people digitally, but online interactions are rarely as deep and personal as face-to-face interactions. And you really can’t enjoy happy hour with someone online.
But where would you go when it’s time to live offline? The information on online reviews sites like Yelp is often outdated, and you need to know what’s happening now in order to plan an outing. So Pulsr helps you find real world activities where you can meet old friends or make new friends.
And everyone can use a friend.
“People are interacting with each other online more, and they’re developing an echo chamber. Facebook is encouraging that because of advertising. They show people what they want to see, so it creates two very opposed groups who see the other group as less than human,” Coffey said.
Pulsr can help you facilitate your encounter. Once you open the app, you and your friend first find common ground on what to do. Later, you seek common ground on other things.
Getting out of the house is fun, but it is also vitally important to your physical and mental health.
“I have a couple of friends who I was in the Army with who are going through depression right now, and I was talking to them yesterday. What they said was that they were isolating themselves. They knew it was bad, but they didn’t know what else to do,” Lay said. “It hammered home the point that the only way we as people can grow and learn is from each other through experiences. Sometimes when you’re isolated your problems feel bigger than they are. They’re magnified because you’re staring at them all day long. When you get out there and see that your problems are actually not that big in comparison to the problems that we all have.”
The guys at Pulsr eat, sleep, and breathe the app. Day and night, they constantly think about ways to do things better. They have the entrepreneurial bug, and gladly put up with the stress of working at a startup in exchange for the fun and excitement.
“Unlike working for another company where you in some ways don’t have much effect over the outcome, I wake up every morning excited about the opportunities. In a sense, it’s the four of us against the world trying to make this app successful,” Lay said.
In the end, Pulsr is meant to answer the question, “What should we do tonight?” After you use Pulsr to answer that question, forget about Pulsr until you need to answer that question again on another night. Be with people, not with technology.