*As a graduate of Brown University with dual degrees in Engineering and Economics, Robert Gillett makes one-third of the tech triumvirate alongside Brown University graduate Marc Howland, investment banker and private equity investor, and Harvard University alum Adam Demuyakor, architects of weCliq, a mobile app that debuted in September of 2015. The app allows people to make connections with new groups of friends or even a possible date by facilitating spontaneous meet ups using real-time photos and live content.
In November of 2014, Robert attended the Startup Weekend Orange County hackathon in Los Angeles, California, where he pitched his idea for the social discovery app. weCliq’s blueprint was a top 10 finalist out of 100 app pitches and after 54 hours of development with an ad-hoc team, the app was created and presented to a panel of judges and ultimately awarded first place.
EURweb.com associate Yolanda Baruch caught up with the innovating tech creators, Robert Gillett, and Marc Howland, to discuss how they plan to revolutionize the social engagement of their millennial generation.
How did you develop the idea for weCliq app?
Robert: The original concept came about when I was playing professional football in Italy. I was looking for a platform whereby my teammates and I could connect with other people within an adjacent location seamlessly. People of our generation are taking pictures; they are generating live content. But we are not used to using live content for the purpose of meeting other people nearby. So I thought, what if you could create a platform where you can take the live content you are already generating and use that to meet people around you in a fun environment. That was the initial vision for what I set out to build and Marc was the first person I called as we were each other’s first friend on the football team at Brown.
Marc: Exactly, and when we took first place at Start Up Weekend that gave us momentum to rally a few individuals who wanted to get involved as well. From there we have been building out ever since.
We had a launch in New York Fashion Week 2015, and we also had a launch in October at Harvard University campus in Boston. We are looking to gain momentum in penetrating the college scene to provide this platform where individuals can have fun with the content they are generating but have the utility of connecting with people nearby.
What makes weCliq unique to other apps that are similar to yours?
Marc: weCliq uses live content to connect people nearby. One of the major roadblocks or challenges for some of these other apps that are available, today, is catfishing. Catfishing is when you connect with someone via another app, but you are not sure of who are getting. The picture could be of them or not; it could be them in their prime, [or their pictures] may be edited multiple times. What we are doing is creating a platform whereby what you see is what you get. When you connect with an individual (or group) on weCliq, you know it is a live photo that they have taken, so you are very confident in who you are going to meet in a face to face interaction point. Another major differentiator is that weCliq is not purely for individuals or purely for groups; it is focused on people. Very few apps focus on a group to group interaction and some apps that focus on singles. We are focused on creating a broad base platform where you are connecting with people via the live experiences you are enjoying throughout your life.
What software or framework did you use to develop the weCliq app?
Robert: Our team built weCliq for iOS devices using Apple’s Swift programming language. We incorporated Facebook authentication for ease of onboarding as well as to ensure identity of users
How successful has the app been since its launch?
Marc: We started last fall, and we have seen a 15 percent week by week growth rate.
How do you interact with your users and how often?
Robert: When building weCliq I was an adjunct instructor at Brown University. Our users are college students and while on [the college] campus I hosted weekly meetings with hundreds of students using our app. We strive to interact with our users on a regular basis to amass feedback and iterate.
What are some of the responses from your users?
Marc: Individuals have said that they have loved the app. We have had thousands of photos taken using the app. Individuals are thrilled about generating this live content and seeing what other people around them are doing.
Can you describe the internet marketing strategies you used to promote the weCliq app?
Robert: We’ve attempted internet marketing strategies such as Facebook advertisement, but we found the most effective tool has been peer to peer word of mouth.
Have you both been interested in creating downloadable applications?
Marc: We haven’t always been interested in creating apps per se, but we have been passionate about the technology industry. In college, I had the opportunity to help put together a start-up proposal and ended up focusing on the technology space. My entire career centered on the media and technology arena, and I am continuously excited about the innovation and where the market will continue to grow and evolve. While we have not been building apps our entire careers, the cost to create a new product has never been lower. Rob, our technical founder, has the skill set to continue to build out the app as it continues to evolve over time and we are excited about that differentiator.
What was your most frustrating and most enjoyable part of the whole development process for the app?
Robert: Learning what to build is the most frustrating part. The app’s features are evolving. Early on we tried to build too much too soon and had to simplify our platform to provide the most utility. Seeing the app you created to enhance the way people meet is the most rewarding element for sure and why we sought out to pursue this endeavor.
What other components are you planning to add to the weCliq app?
Marc: One thing we are doing is diversifying; one element we pride ourselves in is being nimble and flexible given the small size of our team and being able to recognize opportunities. There is one opportunity that we are particularly excited about right now given the massively exploding medicinal marijuana market. We are creating a platform called LoudCloud, launching very soon, which will enable dispensaries onboard patients 100 times faster and create a “FastPass” for patients.
This new platform, Loud Cloud, will solely focus on medicinal marijuana market?
Marc: Yes, LoudCloud will be solely focused on this market. We are currently building on this project as we speak. We already have a partnership opportunity lined up in Los Angeles on January 17, 2016, where we will be helping to verify individuals who would like to consume product at the event.
Robert: We started this venture a few weeks ago, and we have had an overwhelmingly positive response. People have been reaching out, and they want to get involved. There is an event called “The Bus L.A. Cup” in Los Angeles, it is an event for cannabis connoisseurs, and they give out awards to the best grains grown within 2015 and they asked us to be a part of the event free of charge because they liked what we are doing. We are technically sponsoring the medicated area at the actual event.
Marc: The growth has been overwhelmingly positive; the demand has been phenomenal. We have had over 120 dispensaries go to our website and sign up, as well as received numerous messages from countless individuals who want to become ambassadors and representatives.
In addition to LoudCloud and weCliq, do you anticipate developing more apps in the future?
Marc: I would say we are a close-knit and passionate group who continues to try to create value for society. It is unclear exactly what the future holds, but we are constantly innovating.
Where can people download the weCliq App?
Robert: You can get the weCliq App in the app store, and we will begin onboarding dispensaries to LoudCloud this month. Consumers will soon be able to access our website to determine which locations are “FastPass,” LoudCloud approved. In the meantime, people can visit our landing page, GetLoudCloud.com, as well as, our Instagram handle @loudcloudofficial.
What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs who are entering the tech space with regards to marketing and developing the idea?
Robert: I would suggest just diving in all the way when you are an entrepreneur; it is letting go of everything else and completely indulging into your venture, which is the most important thing. When it comes down to product development, you have to be ingrained in the system. For example, I was actually at Brown University for one semester teaching a course on Tech-Entrepreneurship, and I just dove into that environment so that we can get more productive feedback to build weCliq.
To download weCliq visit wecliqapp.com and the app is also available for IOS devices through the iTunes app store.