Heaps Of Partygoers: Social App Optimizes Search For Fun

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Just time for New Year’s: With 80,000 users in Denmark alone, investments in the millions and a launch pad in Los Angeles, party-matching social app heaps is gearing up to start taking over major cities in 2016.

“Well, the night’s begun and you want some fun
Do you think you’re gonna find it…
… Call all your friends in the neighborhood
And get the party started”

So goes the underwhelming, but fun, Kiss classic Shout It Out Loud. But in case something like “calling your friends in the neighborhood” seems too quaint or antiquated, the explosion of social app heaps demonstrates there is no corner of spontaneous human activity that cannot be colonized in the name of technical innovation, the thirst for magical investment opportunities or simply the human tendency to over-glorify the party-going experience.

Quenching The Thirst

The idea behind Danish-born heaps – which reportedly arose after a failed attempt by a group of young men to communicate with a neighboring apartment full of partying women during a warm-up session prior to going out – was to create an app that would function as a “matchmaker” or connector between parties and revelers, where groups of friends establish profiles and then connect with similarly-minded partygoers, circumventing e.g. the Tinder experience by connecting groups instead of individuals.

The app was launched in October of 2014, and exploded by going to #1 in the Danish app store the following New Year’s Eve. By February of 2015, it had 50,000 users. As Drew Tewksbury notes, “In a city of a half million people [Copenhagen], that means 10% of residents were on heaps, an enviable growth rate for any company.” The team then began marketing the app in the rest of Denmark.

Los Angeles, Obviously

But Denmark is a small pond. Meanwhile, heaps CMO Frederik Bjerager quit his job in January and moved to Los Angeles together with another of the app’s founders. “It started out being a fun way to make things easier for young people, and we followed that dream, but in the end so many people started using it that it turned serious. We had to consider whether we could live with ourselves if we didn’t give it our best shot,” says Bjerager.

That best shot, then, involved the relocation to Los Angeles, in part because Europe has no equivalent to Silicon Valley and doesn’t match its innovation and risk taking. ‘Looking at the history of social apps like ours, it’s a one-direction game. They all come over here mainly from the San Francisco area and then they hit Europe. No one goes the other way around, so we were like “Let’s try this, at least”’, says heaps CFO Kristoffer Juhl [credit to Nylon for quote –ed.].

By autumn, heaps managed to touch base with investors who recognized the business potential in the concept. According to Danish business-minded daily Berlingske, among these are billionaire Ron Burkle, DJ Steve Aoki, Vine star Logan Paul and marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk, who together have poured millions into heaps [exact amount hitherto undisclosed – ed.]. This turn of fortune reflected a conscious strategy, however, of seeking out strategically placed investors to help launch the app Stateside. Vaynerchuk, for instance, contributes investment experience with Uber, Twitter and Tumblr, while Paul, with his four million followers, has the kind of influence and network heaps would like to tap into.

Bjerager and his partners today live in a considerably nicer house than their first apartment in LA, and the whole team is seeking residency in the U.S. Since embarking on the startup, they’ve all quit their jobs and studies to concentrate fully on launching heaps in the US. In so doing, they’re following the same procedure that launched them in Denmark – targeting universities first, like they did with their alma mater Copenhagen Business School, starting in the US with UCLA.

Heaps now counts 80,000+ Danish users and has recently updated its app to include a photo and video-sharing function to “document” party activities.

The Party Never Ends

The development reflects a broader incursion of startups into the event-connection branch, such as Austria’s HostedBy, which promises a “Nightlife with Like Minds” by booking “unique private Nightlife-Activities of local hosts” anywhere in the world – see StartUs’ forthcoming interview on January 6th.

The fundamental question (to your correspondent) remains, however, whether this obsession with optimizing the party-experience isn’t ultimately destroying the kind of spontaneity that distinguishes a truly unexpected evening through random decision-making, from what seems likely, in the long run, to become a series of indistinguishable experiences with “like minded individuals”. But perhaps a party is not the place to care.



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