You go? I go? WiGo!

There is another player emerging on the ever-growing social media landscape.  That entrant is WiGo, a social media app that is an acronym for “Who Is Going Out.”  WiGo was founded by its current CEO Ben Kaplan, a 23-year-old Holy Cross dropout and former hockey player.  The app was created after Kaplan pitched his idea to a panel for a Holy Cross “Shark Tank” competition his Freshman year. Kaplan’s idea and pitch was best in show and took first place. Thereafter, Kaplan commissioned a software development firm to get a beta version out for testing.  After that phase, Kaplan secured a round of funding and partnered up with Kayak.com co-founder Paul English.  From there, the company launched and within the three weeks after the January 2014 start, more than half of the Holy Cross student body downloaded the app.

WiGo is currently free to download and free of advertisements.  And, Kaplan would like to keep the app free: he currently has no plans to monetize the app and is primarily interested in getting college students hooked on WiGo.  While the app currently makes no money, it is worth noting that Instagram was bought from Facebook for $1.1 billion with no revenue and no real monetization strategy in place.  Moreover, social media app Yik Yak has a $40 million valuation, despite the fact that they have no revenue to date.  If an app is attractive to many, the money will follow.  WiGo is already valued at 15M.

Distinguishing from the field 

Some of you may be familiar with Foursquare or Swarm.  But WiGo does not consider them direct competitors.  Kaplan deems them check-in apps, whereas WiGo is a “social planning app.”

Kaplan thinks this is the main difference:

• WiGo helps college kids decide which bar/party they’re going to go to, based on what their classmates are doing.

• Foursquare/Swarm let’s people broadcast where they already are, and that is tantamount to glorified bragging. Once you’re already there, it’s too late.

WiGo aims to get you to the right place, the rest is up to you.

What is more, WiGo is 100 percent exclusive to college students at this time.  This similar to Facebook’s foray into Social Media.  While some may view this exclusivity as a bad thing, it does drive interest, curiosity, and lastly, desire for access. When one goes to download the app, they are met with a tag line that proudly notes: “Our student-only filter blocks all townies, adults and other randos.”  If you’re a local townie you are left to conclude that the app must be “wicked pissa ked, it’s exclusive.”

Functionality

WiGo creates separate, private, and closely monitored networks for each school. To unlock the app at a college, anywhere from 800 to 1,200 users from the school must download the app.

To utilize the app, one must tap people you want to see out, or simply invite them to join you. And, the app kind of takes a page out of Snapchat’s playbook–WiGo resets every morning, so everything from the night before is wiped clean. Every day on WiGo is essentially a new day.

Privacy Concerns

Despite the fact that WiGoers can see the location of fellow WiGoers in their area, Kaplan assures safety is a top priority of the company.

WiGo’s .edu address requirement does increase safety, but that can be a tough issue when the company wants expand. WiGo also allows users to link private E-mail addresses, where the user must accept or decline anybody who wishes to follow them.  Though this is not a default feature of the WiGo app, you can turn it on by going to the “Who” screen, clicking “edit” in your profile, and toggling the private account setting to on. If that is not enough, you can always simply block users.  Depending on your reason for blocking a WiGoer, the Boston development team can go in and investigate that user and if they feel that the person should not be on WiGo, they immediately blacklist him.

Your thoughts

The app hit 50,000 users in the first six weeks, which was faster than Tinder’s initial growth: Not bad for a couple of Sophomore dropouts.

I think this may have been cool when I was in college; but, only if most of my buddies used the app.  Is this totally lame?  Or would you rather learn about events an alternative way?

Video:

Sources:

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/money/2014/10/16/wigo-college-nightlife-app/17310547/

http://college.usatoday.com/2014/10/27/is-wigo-revolutionizing-the-way-college-students-socialize/

http://college.usatoday.com/2015/03/11/students-leave-school-to-join-wigo-as-app-continues-to-grow/

11 comments

  1. Interesting post Adrian. I’m always amazed at the variety of social apps that are being developed today. Now literally anything we can think of, there’s an app for that! You raised some good points about security. In the Ted Twitter talked we watched for class a couple of weeks ago, the speaker discussed removing geo data from pictures. Now with an app like Wigo, users will voluntarily provide information about their location and activities. This of course isn’t anything new. We see a ton of social media platforms that are either built around this type of feature/capability, or offer it. I certainly think that it will be interesting to see where Wigo ends up amongst significant competition in the segment.

  2. Nice post, Adrian! I’m actually not too familiar with these types of apps, but they sound like something I would actually use. As someone who is usually “out of the loop”, this app seems like the perfect solution to my lackluster socializing skills. I like that they are clearly defining how they are different from the competition, as it gives them a clear point to market themselves and target a specific audience (college students). Furthermore, it makes you feel as though you are involved and this is usually a feeling that people are striving to achieve. I definitely think this app has potential, as long as they continue to differentiate themselves from the competition and they should ensure that they are really reaching their target audience.

  3. Interesting app…When I was in college, I definitely would have been interested in using this app. Knowing what other people across the campus are up to on any given night, you can make sure you are around the people you want to see, and avoid those you don’t want to see.

    The part that troubles me is that the founder has no plans to monetize the app. I feel like a lot of these apps could be even more successful if they built it with an idea of how to monetize it. Although they may not be able to monetize it right away, in the future they can easily implement ways to monetize the app without having to re-configure the way it works. A lot of these apps are benefiting from abnormally high valuations, but eventually they will not be able to live up to the expectations and investors will lose money.

  4. Interesting post. Since I’m not cool enough, I can’t really test the app to know (and the devil is often in the details). My main question is whether one would really want all 1000 BC students to know where everyone is going. Any community seems more fractured than that. I’m also a bit alarmed by the number of students dropping out of school after some short term success. They aren’t all Mark Zuckerberg. Some may have success or get valuable experience, but others may be led down the wrong path.

  5. Great post! I read an article about WiGo in The Heights last year and haven’t heard much about it since then. This leads me to believe two things: 1) I’m out of the loop, or 2) It hasn’t caught on to BC students yet. I think it’s a good idea to keep the app free.It’s definitely an interesting concept, but I don’t think that students would be willing to pay for this kind of service. The app would only be worth it to me if most of my friends were on it. Having said that, I think I might have to reevaluate some of my friendships if the only way I can find out where my friends are is through an app! I’ll download WiGo and try to give you and @geraldckane some feedback!

    1. UPDATE: I got a message from the app stating “Wigo will unlock when more people from your school download the app.”

  6. I actually applied to be the brand ambassador at BC for this company after I found out about them. I think there are values that can be captured through using this app and it seems that future revenue stream will be again from advertisement and selling of data to people who wants to know what the college population wants. However, it doesn’t seem to me that they are gaining the traction that they want. With alot of SM, you die out when you don’t have traction and people using your application for the business function you desire. With WiGo, ever since I applied to be a Brand ambassador in late Jan, they still haven’t gotten enough sign ups to unlock the app for BC. This make me question the viability of the app. I feel like it will restrict their audience given the current tactics to only big schools. It will be interesting to see how they go from now and I do share Professor Kane’s concern about people dropping out to concentration on something that “might” work. I know with start ups and entrepreneurship it is always about timing. But I also feel like having the basis covered would be also important.

  7. It can be hell trying to plan for a big group of people to go somewhere. I have been a part of big group text messages, GroupMe chats, and even Google Doc Polls to try and organize a night out. So I can see the draw of the app in that it seems fairly easy to use and can negate these dreaded times where your “crew” can’t settle on which bar they want to go to. My main concern though would be privacy, especially for those people who are more high profile than myself. I’ve never used Foursquare or any location based apps, so maybe I am just behind the times.

  8. I remember about tweeting about this in the first week of class and when I did it was hardly a 15M dollars company! It’s crazy to see how much it has grown since then. I think it was a good move offering it only to college students at first. It keeps it exclusive and secretive, which I think increases the appeal for the app. Also it was definitely smart to keep it cost free for students. I don’t think college students would consider paying for an app like this since I think everyone can relate to the college budget. However, I could see them monetizing with businesses like bars, venues, and restaurants. Maybe having their app promote certain events and locations could be a cool add on. But this probably won’t happen until they establish a larger user base first. Overall its a great idea and it’s definitely a brand we are going to want to keep and eye on in the future. Also awesome post!

  9. I think one thing that is truly missing from the BC experience is connections across universities in the Boston area. Given that there are over 65 colleges in the Greater Boston area, it is amazing to me how many of my friends at school have never met someone from another Boston area college. I think WiGo is just what BC could use to break the “BC Bubble” that consumes the BC social scene.

    1. Alan, you might be on to something. With so many apps today, little distinctions seem to form the foundation for a lot of apps. Minor distinctions are enough for some apps today. “Linchpin, the cross campus social app by Alan Lipchin.” Heh. I’ll only need a small cut, I’m not greedy.

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