Brett Rosen is the co- founder of Frendz LLC is a mobile software development startup company dedicated to providing innovative proximity based social networking applications for mobile devices.
Their first product BuzzE for iPhone provides a safe and friendly way to meet people and make connections with people nearby or around the world. As one of the most feature rich proximity base apps BuzzE offers chat, picture video and audio exchange, status post commenting, icebreaker games, and virtual gifting plus extensive listings for local social events. BuzzE offers users some of the popular community features associated with Facebook while providing a fun way to connect with new friends.
MO: Where did the inspiration of BuzzE come from?
Brett: This is a story I have told quite frequently. I was at a mobile conference in San Francisco for my previous company back in April of 2010. At that time proximity apps were still relatively new and I was watching presentations from a variety of companies using proximity in different ways. That led me to thinking about different things that could be done with proximity. As it turns out I walked into a bar that night and noticed a room full of people playing on their smart phones and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to match that social environment of a public gathering on a mobile device.
As we developed the concept we realized there were a few players specifically in the mobile dating arena. What we felt they lacked was an authentic social experience. If you think about the way a dating app works these tend to be very closed interactions. You find a person on a list and have a very closed conversation with them. To equate that to the real world it would be like sitting in an interrogation room at the police station and having random people come in alone close the door and start asking you questions. That is a very unnatural way for human beings to interact. What we have tried to do is mimic the way interactions and relationships work in the real world. To that end BuzzE does not feel like a dating app. It really is more of a social community akin to neighborhood barbeques, or a New Year’s Eve party. That largely sums up what differentiates us from other applications. BuzzE is about building relationships in a community setting that mimics the way relationships are formed in the real world.
MO: How much did Facebook or other social networking sites influence the development of your product?
Brett: Social networks are so ubiquitous now that it would be disingenuous to say they didn’t have an enormous impact on our thinking. Some of this involved using standard paradigms that people understand as part of social networks for example “friending” other users and creating status posts. These are both central features of Facebook that we are using in a different context. Using some of the models from other social networks is fairly critical for an app like ours. Users understand those common features of social networks but are often hesitant to add another one. Using familiar approaches to some features in BuzzE makes it more comfortable for users to hop in and become part of the community.
MO: Can you tell our readers about BuzzE’s most unique feature?
Brett: BuzzE provides an extremely rich one on one chat experience and we decided early on we would let users exchange pictures, sound and video. What we also added that we think is somewhat unique is what we call audiocons. Probably the best way to think of this is sound enabled emoticons. Users can for example send another user an image of a whistle that plays a whistle sound when it is received or a picture of shotgun shells that play a shotgun blast. Really what this does is offer users helpful props to engage in playful conversations with other users. For example if you say something I don’t like I could send you a slap. These really add to the overall user experience and make BuzzE one of the most engaging platforms for one on one interaction.
MO: What do you think is the most exciting aspect of proximity based social networking?
Brett: The most exciting aspect to me clearly is this new found ability to tailor the behavior of software to your environment. The ability to tune the behavior of an application based on your current location has enormous potential and the possibilities have barely been scratched here. Obviously advertisers have been using this to target their messages to a very specific niche of people who based on their location are high potential customers but it has a lot of value for the end user as well.
Ultimately what we would like to do is to be able to let users target interactions to people in specific areas. The example we use in our app description is you could use BuzzE to see why traffic is snarled 2 miles up the highway. That is a simplistic example but there are huge possibilities now for real world location based discovery that just didn’t exist a few years ago.
MO: You’re planning on rolling out your marketing campaign in the coming weeks? What does your strategy look like?
Brett: Our initial strategy is to target a few major metro areas to build some critical mass in those geographies. As a community having people a block away from you is not as important as it would be in say a dating app but there is some inherent attraction to talking to people who happen to be nearby, who may have local interests similar to yours, and who you might be able to meet in real life. From our perspective of course building a large user base in a specific geography also helps us create more organic lift as people start to hear about BuzzE from 3 5 or 10 friends and try the app out themselves.
MO: The app market is rapidly changing, what do you think the next feature will be for BuzzE?
Brett: We are working on some pretty exciting stuff to build on the idea that BuzzE is not a chat app but a genuine mobile community. The next big feature revolves around what I would describe as competitive socialization. There is already some amount of what I term users “juggling” for each other. You can find this in some of the exchanges that take place on user status posts where they go back and forth competing for the attention of the larger audience to see who can be the funniest, wittiest, most entertaining etc. We want to help turn that process into a social game where users are rewarded and scored by other users for how much they add to the community. We think that will make the community aspect stronger and stickier as users compete to maintain and enhance their social status. We also think it has another natural benefit in that it encourages good socially appropriate behavior. One of the problem with many social apps is there is no community so there are no community standards. We want to break that mold that largely comes from anonymity. In the real world we have a system where people are rewarded for good social behavior and punished for bad behavior. As an app that strives to mimic natural relationships we want to do that as well.
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