The Coolest Apps Started by Our Fellow Bostonians: U Out
November 7, 2017
In the seventh installment of our “Coolest Apps” blog series, I spoke with co-founder and investor Steve Borseti about his app, U Out.
My interview with Steve Borseti started out with my subject actually asking me a question: “Caroline, if you go out in Boston on a Thursday or Friday night and want to find out who has live music… or if you want to go out Wednesday for happy hour, or find a brunch spot on Saturday, or if you were into wine and hoping to find a tasting, how would you quickly find those things?”
I’ll save you the breath: the answer is not social media (unless you have a friend who is so die-hard about local events that he posts regularly about them, but he would still have to visit individual websites to get that info).
It’s also not Google (‘what’s near me’ can’t tell you what is happening dynamically or weekly… you still have to visit individual restaurants’ or bars’ websites to get that info, and who has time for that?).
This is the premise behind U Out, an app that compiles local restaurant, bar, and venue events happening in Boston with filters so you can easily find exactly what you want. You can filter by type of fun, by date, by location, and by establishment type. You can also invite friends to things that interest you by sending them a sleek-looking invite, with all the details attached. And you can post pictures to the event so only those attending can see them, adding a degree of privacy for users.
Not only does this make our lives much easier, but U Out’s web-based platform for businesses is about to shake-up nightlife promotions. Steve shared, “No one has ever built a simple platform for businesses to post their events and offers so consumers can find them easily. Our timing is exciting because in Boston and other cities, there’s intense competition. Restaurants and bars open on a weekly basis and the days of even high-end places flinging open their doors, and people simply showing up, are long gone. Even the best steakhouse now feels the need to do live music and other creative events. On top of all that, there is a very real social media fatigue that has set in. We’ve talked to countless restaurant groups that tell us they spend lots of time and money on social media, but have no idea what it actually does to bring customers in.”
Steve said that U Out will solve these problems for bars, restaurants, and venues–with no technical integration required, no barcode scanning or coupons, and no outside marketing necessary. A restaurant or bar can easily create an event or offer in 30 seconds and post it real-time, at any moment of the day or night.
Steve, who is a co-founder along with his son, Sam, Brian Peluso (Chief Creative Officer), and Jay Bolton (whose incubator, BlueFlame, helped fund the development of U Out), showed me that if I click on a public post like “Happy Hour at Restaurant Dante,” I can then invite friends to my own personal event. I can create my own title, like “Lauren’s Birthday Dinner,” change the category to “celebration,” and change the description (posted by the restaurant) to “Hey guys, let’s celebrate Lauren’s birthday at this place w/ happy hour!”
Just like that, I’ve coordinated an event that usually would have taken me an hour of group texting, multiple screenshots, and an unnecessary amount of effort sending directions to various people and answering repetitive texts asking me for the details again.
And that’s precisely the point. As Steve said, “U Out is not built as a chat app… In fact, in some ways it’s to counter the group-text madness it usually takes to meet up with friends for drinks. Nobody ever considers the 52 group texts planning a night out as part of the fun.”
You might be thinking this has all been done before, and, for specific groups, it certainly has. Steve was candid about this: “Look, there are other apps out there where you can find EDM shows in Boston, and there are other apps that’ll show you good brunch spots. But our research showed that the same kid who goes to an EDM concert on Saturday is looking for half-priced apps on Tuesday with co-workers, and also wants to do brunch with his family visiting on Sunday. Why do you need three different apps when you can get it in one place?”
Steve said that the good thing about the Boston market is that it’s always ripe for new technology, and Boston locals are really loyal supporters of home-grown brands. But launching in Boston has its challenges as well; since there’s always new technology coming out, it’s tough to cut through the noise and clutter to get people’s attention.
“I think when we first tell people we’ve created this great new restaurant/bar/nightlife app, we get some eye-rolls for sure. But when they see it and use it, and hear why we built U Out, they often seem surprised that an app like this didn’t exist already. That’s no guarantee of success, but we’re excited about the reaction we’re getting.”
When asked about the future of U Out, Steve painted a pretty grandiose picture: “There’s no doubt we’ll expand once we conquer our home turf here in Boston. From there, we believe U Out will work in Manhattan, San Diego, Chicago, and even internationally.”
Steve joked, “Right now, there’s a group of millennials in Birmingham, England trying to figure out where they can find live music tonight.”
And if all that’s not enough for you, did I mention that you can also use U Out to plan your own events, like hosting a Pats house party, intramural sports, or even bachelor/bachelorette parties? (Something tells me those groups will like the private picture sharing.)
Steve also teased us with a U Out Rewards Program coming out early next year, saying only, “The app that takes you out for drinks with friends is going to try to get you home safely.”
Sounds to me like the app that ‘takes you out for drinks with friends,’ can do a lot more than that. Right now, I’m eyeing a $2.00 Taco Tuesday, a band I love that’s playing in Somerville, a Trivia Night, and a free poker game with prizes. For those of you who complain you never do anything new or exciting in Boston with your friends: what’s your excuse now?