(Photo by Flickr user Sam Howzit, used under a Creative Commons license)
Once, when Junaid Shams was in college at George Washington University, he showed up at a party with no attendees. An unfortunate way to spend the evening, no doubt, but to add insult to injury Shams discovered via Facebook the next day that a big party had taken place, just at another bar. Another time, Shams went to the bar to pay his tab only to discover that the bartender had lost his credit card. They found it, but the whole ordeal took a while.
Collectively, these two stories encapsulate what’s wrong with nightlife from Shams’ perspective. “Why isn’t anyone fixing this?” he wondered. So he decided to do just that.
Enter Rooam, Shams’ D.C.-based mobile-payment-come-nightlife-social-networking app that, he announced at Collision on Tuesday, has raised $1.2 million in seed funding. The money “will accelerate the full development of its cashless mobile payment app, support product launch initiatives and boost its sales and marketing efforts,” according to a press release.
Essentially, Rooam does three things. It allows cashless mobile payment at participating bars and restaurants, it allows users to see, in real time, where the party is at and it allows users to find friends who are out on the town (privacy settings willing).
Seem like a lot of things? Technical.ly thought so, too. But when we asked Shams whether he thought the app, which is currently in beta, does too many things, he demurred. All of the features are there for a reason, he assured Technical.ly.
“We wanted to build something that people would want to use throughout the day,” Shams said. Combining payment and events features gives users more reason to open the app and, Shams hopes, puts Rooam above the mobile payment competition.
Practically, for the bars, participating in Rooam is pretty simple. Rooam integrates with five major point-of-sale systems, meaning there’s no need for any new hardware. Restaurants do need to acquire a license allowing them to connect to a third-party system such as Rooam, Shams said, but his company currently covers that cost making the experience totally free for bars.
Shams told Technical.ly that 11 bars in D.C. have signed up so far, of which he has on-boarded five. “No one has said no yet,” he said.
On the user side, well, you can imagine. You download the app, link a credit card, check in at a participating bar and give your name when ordering. Your drinks are added to a virtual tab, and your credit card is charged when you check out. Simple.
Shams is launching Rooam in D.C. because he’s a local guy (grew up in NoVa and, as noted above, went to school at GW), and a big proponent of #DCTech. “D.C. is such a hot bed for innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said. Beyond that Shams and his seven person team know a lot of people who are active in the D.C. nightlife scene, which has been helpful as he beta-tests the product.
Ultimately, of course, Shams wants Rooam to grow and expand. But he’s apprehensive about saying where to and how fast — the model needs to be proven here first. “We want it to be a habit to use Rooam when you go out,” he said. And for that, from Shams perspective, density of coverage within a city is more important that number of cities covered.
The fact of the matter is that despite widespread interest in mobile payment, no one system has quite taken off. This could be for any number of reasons, from its effect of the experience of eating/being out, to the safety. But Shams thinks nightlife is the perfect place to start, and he’s hoping you do, too.