Cityfé - Meet new friends 2.0

Cityfé is simple, social and easy to use

Nine months ago, Ilya found himself sitting alone in a cafe. He had just moved to Prague, and was trying to find someone with whom to hang out. He was all over Facebook and meetup.com, a website for people who want to organize and attend events with others who share their interests. Although he’d gone to high school in Prague, Ilya had spent the past several years in Holland. He didn’t know very many people here, and wanted to do what most people want to do when they move to a new place: “I wanted to meet people.

“I was trying to get invited to parties,” Ilya recalls, “but it was difficult. I joined a group on meetup.com, but it didn’t go anywhere. I thought, there has to be a better way of doing it.”

Today, he hopes his new app, Cityfé, will help other expats like himself, or tourists, or even locals, more easily connect with the people in their areas. The app’s name is an amalgam of the words “city” and “café.” The latter culture embodies the kind of communal, interactive, and personal atmosphere Ilya hopes to facilitate.

Like meetup.com, Cityfé helps users find nearby events that align with their interests. When you first login, you’re directed to a screen that prompts you to select a few “interests” from a list of 16, interests like Food, Music, Shopping, Health, Business, etc. “Help us find you the right events,” offers the banner at the top of the screen. Once you’ve finished, the app shows you which users have organized events that correspond with the interests you’ve just selected. You’re free to request to join any event you see, but you have to be approved by the user who organized the event in order to attend it. You can see where it’s taking place, when, and the first names and photos of the other users who have already been approved to attend.

Cityfé is simple, social and easy to use. Its mission, to help users find events in their cities, might also ring rather familiar. But, lest you write the app off as a sleeker version of meetup.com, its approach warrants a closer look.

“In our day and age, apps are trying to get people to stick to the apps as long as possible,” says Ilya. “Like Facebook, throwing all those ads at you. What I’m trying to do is, something that people can use for just a short moment, and then, get them away from their phone.” The goal is not to have people stop using technology after they’ve met up in person, but rather, to have them “use it less. The business is not about serving people ads, keeping them on there.”

Ilya emphasizes the differences between his app and meetup.com, the service that arguably bears the closest resemblance to Cityfé. “Meetup.com is very old-fashioned in how they look at this whole thing,” he explains. “First of all, the organizer has to pay to create a group, which drives away many creators. And most creators try to get something out of it. You can’t really meet random people that somehow match you.”

Perhaps most important of all, Ilya believes,  “Meetup is about the meetups. Cityfé is about the people.”

To that end, he recently spoke with the people he hopes his app will help.  When Cityfé first launched, “we got about 200 users in two weeks,” he remembers. “In the beginning, they were very active.” Over time, however, engagement started to dip. Ilya decided to solicit the advice of several of the app’s most dedicated users, as well as colleagues and good friends, in order to figure out, and then brainstorm solutions to, the problems keeping users away.

He’d noticed people had stopped responding to new events, for instance. He soon realized they “probably switched off the notifications.” The earliest version of Cityfé alerted users every time someone created a new event.

“Ilya, you’re waking me up at 2 o’clock in the morning!’” he remembers a friend of his griping. “Do something about it!”

“We’re giving you the option to choose what you want to get notifications for form now on,” Ilya explains of his solution.

Another friend suggested he incorporate some elements of gamification, or include some kind of a point system. Users “want some kind of way to rank themselves. They want to be competing with one another,” Ilya explains.

That feature has yet to be introduced, although it’s one of several innovations with which Ilya, who is also studying robotics at a local university here in Prague, is currently toying. However, he’s quick to stress his commitment to addressing the issues of the present before moving ahead with future enhancements.

“Right now, we’re all about perfecting and getting the engagement going,” he says.

Following January’s successful launch party, Ilya plans to host a new party every month. He hopes this approach will grow the app’s user base. He has already lined up several partners, including some expat networking organizations, as well as Prague.TV.

“I don’t think it will change the space-time continuum,” he says of Cityfé, “but I do think it will change how people meet and interact for the better.”

Cityfé - Webpage
Cityfé - App Store (iOS)
Cityfé - Google Play (Android)

Author: Anna Storm, Prague.TV (22.02.2015)

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