Connecting with People in the 21st Century: An Interview with Kickit
There are many services that connect you to people you already know. But when it comes to connecting with new people, there aren’t many. Especially when it comes to services that connect you based on similar interests. However, a new startup is tackling this problem and facilitating friendships in different areas across the country. Ashar Malik and Eric Ngo, the founders of Kickit, hope that this startup makes the process of connecting with new people a little less stressful.
Talk to us about Kickit.
Kickit is a way for you to find others with similar interests in an incredibly simple way. All you do is swipe on what you’re interested in; hiking, politics, sports teams or anything like that. Then the app will filter your feed based on similarities with people nearby. Then you can engage in conversation from there.
Essentially we operate similar to a social network like Facebook or Twitter (e.g. posting content, getting likes, engaging in community discussions). But we offer value in terms of potential meet ups and real life connections. This is because posts are filtered by proximity and mutual interests.
Why should people use your app over competitors?
A lot of people, especially upcoming college students and post grads who are our target market, are eventually going to move out into a new environment. It is a difficult transition because when you move out to a new area. It’s challenging to find people you know and make connections. We are improving this process.
What makes us better than our competitors is that millennials want something simple yet effective. Our competitors do have services that solve this problem, but they are complicated, overwhelming and outdated. Kickit gets rid of the complexity by simplifying the experience of connecting with others through a simple like/dislike game. Then we do all the heavy lifting of putting you in front of others who are like minded. From there you can engage with them just like how you would on Twitter or Facebook. But the connections become valuable because everyone is conveniently close by, which is how real life friendships and relationships are formed — through the convenience of proximity and the act of casual conversation.
How did you come up with this idea?
As a team, we drew from our own experiences. For example, Eric came to UT as a transfer student in his second year and he didn’t really get any of those things that freshmen get to help make his initial network in college. For him, he saw a definite problem in meeting people. For Ashar, the least abstract problem was playing volleyball. I like playing volleyball and it was a hassle getting people together. Sometimes I would go there and find people, and at other times there weren’t people there. For me, having Kickit lets me set up a game easier.
How has the company been progressing?
So far, it has been pretty great. We grew out our app on the East Coast at the University of West Virginia and a lot of people really resonate with the idea. We are looking to expand out to more colleges.
What is your next step?
When looking at social norms today, people’s willingness to connect with each other provides a lot of opportunities. For example, with Uber, you can get someone to pick you up at the push of a button. With Airbnb, you can stay at someone’s place with a couple of taps. There isn’t a tool or service to help you make new connections. It would be great if we could grow a community on this app so that at anytime and anywhere in the world, you can open Kickit and become automatically connected with similar people in the area.
And it’s not just helping people make new connections locally. But also building a network where people can share what’s happening. Imagine being able to see what’s going on around you from the perspective of other people. We see Kickit being the primary source for you to tap into a local network of like minded individuals where you can share real time information amongst each other.
If you were to go back to day one, what advice would you give yourself?
The main thing would be to put fewer features and focus on one thing and doing that one thing really well. Another big one would be stop talking about it and do it. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who talk but never do. I believe fear is a big factor. I was talking to someone and they didn’t want to start their business because they didn’t know how to, but there are so many examples of people just picking it up on the job. For example, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are the co-founders of Instagram. They didn’t know how to code that well when they started Instagram, but they picked it up. It’s more difficult that way, but if you are passionate about what you are doing, which you have to be, then you will pick it up because you have to. Even if you can’t code. Start with something simple to validate the idea. It doesn’t have to be a full working product in any sense.