(Photo courtesy of Michael Kolodny)
When the app Yo became a viral sensation in the summer of 2014, many saw it as the surest sign of a tech bubble. Here was an app that could literally do nothing else besides message the word “yo” to your friends. It raised $1.5 million at a valuation of $10-15 million. How could something so decadently trivial imply that we were at anything other than the bread and circuses cycle of a market?
“We kind of just wanted a really easy way to let our friends know we wanted to do something,” Kolodny said over coffee one night last week. “It sort of spun off of Yo as being just easy as saying ‘Yo.'”
"Down is kind of about creating memories versus just watching them."
With Down you can create an event, include time and place, and invite your friends. They reply simply “down” or “not down.” Kolodny says the app fills the gap between a group text message and a Facebook event.
“There are probably 50 or more people I would want to see, but there’s that structural barrier of texting. It’s a little personal,” said Kolodny. “With Down you don’t have to think of someone as a close enough friend to actually text them. With Facebook events you could throw a thousand people into the event and it’s kind of meaningless.”
The app is built from the premise that being with other people makes you happier. Reducing whatever barriers there are is then key.
Kolodny, who is soft-spoken and thoughtful, is something of a serial startupper. At 26, Down is his fifth startup venture. The glamorous ideal aside, startup life, like freelancing or any other work-from-home job, can be alienating.
“I’ve found that the more time I’ve spent on my app and on my work the more I’ve felt my relationships deteriorating,” he said.
In the age of social media, interaction with friends might seem like it’s as easy as ever and near-constant.
“I don’t know how much of the time people use Facebook to actually see people,” Kolodny said. “It’s sort of replaced being together. Down is kind of about creating memories versus just watching them.”
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