Foursquare’s heyday is long over, but the problem of finding cool local stuff to do lives on. Most people seem to make it work through a sometimes reluctant combination of Facebook or Instagram and word of mouth, but the reality is that there aren’t many good apps that help us get off of apps and out into the world. For Go Disco, that’s the priority.
“On the simplest level, it’s an app to get you offline, together with people that you care about more,” Go Disco co-founder Sean Conrad told TechCrunch. Go Disco is an event recommendation engine, but Conrad sees the app also as a philosophical antidote to social networks that juice engagement to keep users plugged in.
"... The crazy duality or irony here is the more tech has been applied to things like medicine, logistics, transportation, it's literally like miracles. It's saving lives and making the world more efficient," Conrad said. “But there's this evil side, which is the markets applied to our social lives. Despite this magical, personally vigorous device in our pocket, it's like a nightmare for our social lives."
The app was founded by Conrad, a consumer app developer, and Jesse Berns, a data scientist. It launches today for iOS, with an Android version on the schedule for mid next year. At launch, Go Disco will only surface cool stuff to do in Los Angeles, but it plans to quickly expand to New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Miami, Portland and Austin in 2022.
Go Disco searches and sorts local events with a combined approach, blending automated systems that pull public events info with a human-powered editorial team that can find community-specific and more underground happenings that might not show up elsewhere.
The company’s events aggregation tech combs through public event listings and sorts things based on relevant terms, which are then paired with terms from a list of 65 interests. When people sign up for the app, they endorse interests from the list, from stuff like rock climbing and books to the LGBTQ community and activism.
Conrad emphasized the importance of human touch in Go Disco’s recommendations, noting that it’s also a way for the app to be sure the recommendations are inclusive and thoughtful. It’s also meant to make the app’s recommendations more personalized and community-focused than a catch-all events calendar that puts the decision making burden on the user.
For Go Disco, less is more. Rather than being a comprehensive guide to everything happening in your corner of the city, the app aims to serve you a small selection of the stuff it thinks you’ll enjoy most. “We don’t need to have everything... we just need to show people three or five perfect niche things,” Conrad said. ”The perfect app is you pull it up, the thing you want to do is right there and you're done."
The first version of the app launches today, but the team has plans in the works to deepen the experience by building in a social layer. By March of next year, Go Disco plans to add a way for users to communicate about upcoming events with each other in threaded replies on the app, though for now they’ll need to settle for normal sharing and calendar features.
With an added social layer, Go Disco aspires to get people out of the kind of arduous text threads that they might use to coordinate with groups of friends and into something purpose-built to connect people to events around them. With event-specific conversations, you can pop in and out of what’s relevant without needing to track back in an endless, disorganized group text.
“You know, I've got my rock climbing friends and my foodie friends and my live music friends. Some of them overlap, some of them don't, but I don't want three extremely noisy text threads on this,” Conrad said. “I would like the ability to engage with those friend groups and stay connected to them. But I also don't want to go to every single live music event that all my live music friends want to go to.”
Go Disco is still early days, but it has some ideas about how it would and wouldn’t like to make money. The app won’t sell user data and would prefer to take a cut of ticket sales or charge dedicated users for premium features. Conrad emphasizes that Go Disco would want to be thoughtful if it implemented promoted events, since the whole project depends on thoughtful curation. Keeping the signal to noise ratio healthy is key, as is a focus on connecting people in real life — ideally to make them happier.
“It's very sad and frightening to imagine having kids growing up in a fake world created by Mark Zuckerberg that's like basically an amplification of weird algorithms built to make us fight with each other,” Conrad said. “.... What we thought about a lot was empathy can mitigate a lot of this and we believe very strongly that being together is like the forcing function for empathy.”