Why this sober UVA grad created an app for his drunk peers - Technical.ly DC

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Jun. 11, 2015 11:44 am

Why this sober UVA grad created an app for his drunk peers

Drunk Mode has been described in the media as a “condom for your phone.”
Some guy from a Drunk Mode promo video.

Some guy from a Drunk Mode promo video.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

Drunk Mode was created out of drunk dials and tribulations.

The Herndon-based mobile app has four uses:

  1. It keeps users from making drunk calls during pre-set partying hours
  2. It helps them find their inebriated friends
  3. It keeps track of the different places they waddled to throughout the night
  4. It allows them to order an Uber in a drunk-friendly manner

Cofounder and CEO Joshua Anton stumbled upon the idea for Drunk Mode in 2012. He’d recently transferred from Northern Virginia Community College to the University of Virginia, which he picked over Georgetown for its entrepreneurial vibes.

Joshua Anton

Joshua Anton. (Courtesy photo)

“I had a good friend of mine who drunk-dialed me at the UVA block party,” he said. “She said something she wouldn’t have said if she were sober.”

The next day, he did some initial market research, interviewing 100 students at the school library.

Seven months later, having teamed up with fellow student Justin Washington, he put out the first version of the app, released in April 2013.

“At this stage, it was a fun school project,” he said.

In under a year, the app (which then charged 99 cents per download) picked up 10,000 users.

Drunk Mode became Anton’s senior entrepreneurship project. With the help of his professors, Anton chose to add a feature allowing users to track their drunk friends, and made the app free of charge.

In April 2014, Drunk Mode 2.0 was out.

It grew a rapid following, spreading like wildfire in party schools like Radford University. Today, Drunk Mode has nearly 600,000 users, estimates Anton.

As graduation approached, Anton turned down jobs at Google and Unilever to go all-in with his startup.

“I decided to work on Drunk Mode after college as my full-time job,” he said.

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To develop the app, Anton and his colleagues were inspired by their immediate experiences.

“Whether it’s once a month or every day,” Anton noted, most every college students goes out. “They were actually real situations we went through.”

"People download us as a drunk app, and use us as a safety app."
Joshua Anton, Drunk Mode

The idea for the so-called “Find my Drunk” feature came from a misadventure that happened to his cofounder and chief operations officer, Daquan Page.

“He had to pick up two girls in Tysons Corner, and they were really, really drunk and he had no idea where they were,” said Anton.

In fact, “‘they couldn’t even tell me on the phone where they were,'” Page told him.

The “bread crumbs” feature also has its own rowdy backstory.

One night, he went out with his lead business development officer Anthony Head and another friend while camping.

“We walked five miles through the forest to a bar,” said Anton, to find a “random bachelorette party that we crashed.”

“We came back the next day, I was the only sober one,” he said.

They wondered, “Last night was crazy, it would have been amazing to map where we were.”

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As it turns out, the 24-year-old startup founder doesn’t drink. Medication he was on kept him teetotaling until his early 20s.

By the time he was of age, he didn’t see the appeal of ingesting alcohol. “I’m a huge health nut,” he said.

But, despite marketing that heavily caters to the college partying crowd (see this very fratty YouTube video), Anton argues that his app is not meant to promote drinking; but to make it safer.

“People download us as a drunk app, and use us as a safety app,” he said.

Based in the D.C.-area homes of its team of eight, the nearly bootstrapped company has raised a $180,000 seed round, and is getting ready to launch a Series A.

The next step on the development side is a “ratio” feature called “hot spot.” The app will aggregate user data to identify gender imbalances in parties, ensuring that horny revelers waste no time in finding each other.

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