When you are in college you have the unique opportunity to be surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals. But with such a great opportunity to be social, it is unfortunate that there is no platform that aggregates your whole college campus so you can make plans. Introducing DownToDash, the mobile app that connect you with people who are down to do what you want. Whether you want to get a 5 on 5 game of ball, join a group of people at a bar or even find a group that wants to travel overseas, DownToDash will connect you with the right people!
AlleyWatch chatted with founders Sama Jashnani and Anuja Shah about the Startup and how it all began.
DownToDash is an app that connects college students in the same location based on what they are down to do whether it’s workouts, sports, movies or travelling. It is a completely secure network (.edu sign up) that works by anonymous swiping. The app launched in October ’16 and has become popular with students at New York University, New York Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, Liberty University, Berkeley and a few other U.S. colleges. Students across America are hooked on the app and feel secure while using it. DTD is being implemented as a compulsory orientation tool for freshmen in some universities.
How is it different?
First of all, it is different from other social apps, as we have closed networks that ensure verified users. Secondly, users can create a specific plan (example: play Tennis on Thursday at 5 pm) and other students can swipe down for the plan. Popular social media apps show ‘stories’ in the moment or after something happens, DTD shows what people are planning before it actually happens.
Our positioning- we don’t want to be just another friend making app. We aim to use technology to connect users but form real human connections once people actually meet to do things they enjoy together.
No rejection: Only if two people swipe down for each other they can connect
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
For our student network currently we are targeting the 20 million students in the U.S. with plans to expand and target the 1.7 million students in the U.K. and 1.3 million students in Australia. We also aim to target large work corporations and housing communities and other closed networks in the future.
What is the business model?
There are a few components to our business model. (1) Advertisements of new venues, events, deals, restaurants, etc. to the relevant audience in a particular area (2) Sponsor Tables at our DownToDash events (3) Last minute flash discounts and deals of unused stock/ sales for places like restaurants/ movie theatres/ sport bookings in the area (4) Bookings for movies, sports facilities, classes, restaurants where the activities would take place once (5) Data collected of peoples interests through users activity graphs that we can sell to companies to target their consumers more effectively.
What inspired the business?
Personal experiences when we were at college. There were many times we still couldn’t find a group of people to play a casual game of basketball with even though there were a number of students in our dorm and our classes and we had many friends. This also happened when we were cooking, wanted to try new restaurants or try more specific activities like Zumba workouts. Why should students be restricted to only their classes and dorms to make new friends? What if your friends aren’t free? Even if they are communicating, asking each one is hard or they don’t share all the same interests as you. Why miss out on experiences due to any of reasons? Surely, out of the 5000+ students on most campuses there is someone who is down to do what you want to do at the same time all that was needed was a platform to facilitate this. Our vision is to connect people worldwide and make the world a happier place. We have always been a person who loves to bring people together and hope to do it on a global scale.
What makes you believe that students will want to adopt another app like this rather than relying on their established social networks?
DownToDash has a different purpose from other established social networks. For example it doesn’t connect you just to your friends, it connects you to people of similar age and interests and others in your location and you don’t have to rely on chance encounters of getting introduced to. It is a completely secure network with no unverified accounts, random creeps. On other established networks like Snapchat and Instagram you only know what your friends are doing after the moment has passed and it’s been posted, on DownToDash, friends and others can see what you want to do in advance and connect with you meet up to share the experience of doing something you mutually enjoy together.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We plan to expand to 100 universities across the US and have 10 more events with sponsors.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Create Partnerships: I was scared to approach any big brands and partner with the idea. I thought that no big company would want to partner with a startup unless it would clearly improve their profit. But I realized that if you are confident and think of create ways to offer companies something in return, you could significantly reduce marketing costs by creating partnerships.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Miguel McKelvey and Adam Neumann, Cofounders of WeWork. We are huge fans of WeWork and their growth, design, branding etc. We would love to be mentored by the founders of WeWork or get advice from them about building an empire like theirs.
Why did you launch in New York?
We came from India to New York just for DownToDash because we knew it would be a great market for the app. There is diversity in New York like nowhere else in the world and people are very open to new ideas. Also, it is a city where people travel from all over the world to work and study and we thought they would be the best target market for the app.
What’s your favourite restaurant in New York?
Russ & Daughters, nothing beats the New York classic salmon and cream cheese everything bagel