The Coolest Apps Started by Our Fellow Bostonians: Date Seat
August 29, 2017
“In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it’s not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston. [Silicon Valley] is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.”
— Mark Zuckerberg, being interviewed by Y Combinator co-founder Jessica Livingston at Startup School.
As a proud Bostonian, I’m the first to admit that when I started this series, the only person who came to mind when thinking about Boston-natives, innovation, and forward-thinking, was Mark Zuckerberg (and yes, I do realize Paul Revere and Benjamin Franklin probably should be mentioned, while thinking of Boston-native innovators… but I’m sticking to this century).
But the more I began researching, the more I realized there are plenty of other fellow Yankees who deserve a shout-out for starting some wicked cool apps. Beginning this week, I’ll be interviewing the inventor(s) of a different app each week. Each post in the series will have two necessary components: 1. The app must be something we should all be bragging about (a.k.a. the coolest and most innovative), and 2. It must have started here in Boston (and not in, say, Silicon Valley… which, if you check out Mark’s quote above, might not be all it’s cracked up to be).
Week One’s App: Date Seat.
As someone guilty of having that one great Saturday night spot, that one awesome Sunday brunch spot, and those two fun date-night spots (branching out here, people), I think a lot of us struggle to figure out which restaurants and bars in Boston are worth checking out, and for which occasion. Most of us rely on word-of-mouth, which is rough for those of us new to the area (or for those of us with two friends). And sure, you can rely on websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp for reviews on food, but where can you go when you want to know about the ambiance of a place–like, say, the best lighting and interior decor to take a new date, or the best noise-level and culture for a fun night with your friends?
Enter Date Seat, an app created by co-founders Jake Hajec and Michael Laskowski, both 24-years-old. For such a genius idea, it certainly had humble beginnings. In my interview with Michael, he explained, “I was in the car one night, on the phone with Jake, and I said, ‘We gotta come up with something. What’s an issue we have?’ So we started brainstorming.”
They realized that the biggest issue they, and their friends, were having when it came to choosing a restaurant was figuring out the right place to take a date. “At first, we were marketing towards men who needed to take their girlfriends out,” Michael explains. “But we had to rebrand the slogan and logo, everything, when we realized women were getting really pissed off not to be included,” he laughed.
Jake confirmed this had been a smart decision by examining their target audience through analytics: “[Currently], we see that it is about a 50/50 split between male and female and the average age using the app is late 20’s and early 30’s.” Analytics or not, I can also confirm it was a great decision (I know plenty of women who feel just as stressed when given the honor–and burden–of choosing a good date spot… I mean, atmosphere is everything).
The two spent months collecting notes at various restaurants they visited, until they realized they could be more efficient if they allowed restaurants to plug in their own information to their website. The app has a variety of categories, including “casual date,” “classy date,” “sunday funday,” “after-work drinks,” and “first date” (which, apparently, deserves separate options from your classy and casual dates); it also has uber-specific filters, as mentioned before, such as lighting, noise level, proximity from other tables, interior decor, and gluten-free options.
Jake and Michael are both business majors from the University of New Hampshire and Colby-Sawyer College, respectively, and work in finance, so it made sense geographically to start in Boston. But it sounds like there’s more to it than convenience. As Jake told me, “I would not trade the Boston start-up community for anything. It’s been an excellent location for us to build out and launch our business. We have attended several seminars and events where we have gained great and supportive contacts that will last a lifetime in this area.”
Michael confirmed, “Boston was a no-brainer. It’s so up-in-coming in the tech industry. Plus, it’s a great foodie city.”
So what’s next for the pair who started a business from a conversation in the car and the help of a soccer-teammate-turned-developer? Well, for one, they just partnered with OpenTable, so now you can make reservations straight from the app.
Jake also informed me that, “Our goal is to be in about 10-15 cities within the next two years… up and down the East Coast. We are planning to announce our next city within the next month or two, so stay tuned!”
For those of you reading this from California, rest-assured. “Hopefully we’ll hit every city in America, eventually,” Michael added. Ambitious, sure. But considering they came up with the idea and executed it within a 7-month span, while working full-time jobs, I’m thinking that if anyone can do it, it’s these two.
**Have a suggestion for another app/inventor to be featured in this series? Comment below!