Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Festi launched for Beta testing in May 2017, and is available on both iOS and Android. It allows people to host private events like yoga lessons or tell anyone nearby that they are selling homemade cookies. Hosts can then charge an admission fee through the app, and accept or reject anyone who signs up to come.
Anyone with a profile can follow their friends’ activity, like social media, and sign up for an event that interests them. Like ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, they can store credit card information for a quick-pay option, while events are also on offer for free.
Founder Rita Ting-Hopper, a Clarendon resident, said that it goes further than existing software like Meetup, which is for more public events attended by many people, rather than smaller gatherings.
“We’re talking about having a poker night at your house or baking cookies or a private dinner or a rooftop happy hour with just a few people,” she said. “I think the concept of Meetup is more for public and larger groups, and this is more personal.”
And included in the app is a feature to allow guests to communicate privately with the event’s host, putting the onus on them to swap contact details at events if they wish to stay in touch afterwards.
“This is a unique feature because there’s lots of people you don’t have contact information for, their emails or whatnot, and you may not want their contact information and don’t want other people having your contact information,” Ting-Hopper said. “For the purpose of this event, you can message each other, but once the event is over everything disappears like Snapchat. If you really like each other, you have to exchange contact information or hope for the next event.”
The idea for this app came from Ting-Hopper’s personal experience running an event through her church. A commercial litigation lawyer by trade, she found it to be an awkward experience when asking people to donate money to help pay for the events she hosted and wanted to find a better way.
“We belong to a church here, and I host a young professionals event at my house, at which we order pizza and cater food and people hang out for a happy hour,” Ting-Hopper said. “I had a money jar for people to donate for the cost of food, and it was a pain, because people like to ignore the money jar when they come in. And then it’s really awkward.”
The next step in the app’s development is marketing it to a wider audience, something Ting-Hopper said she will start by using interns from local colleges including George Washington and George Mason Universities.
With a target audience of people aged in their 20s and 30s, she said they are the perfect people to help her refine and promote her product.
“What better than to ask my target what they like, what they want, what works and what their friends and people will do?” Ting-Hopper said.
And Ting-Hopper said that she hopes Festi takes hold in Arlington and the D.C. area, and perhaps is not so concerned about expanding it into other regions.
“It’s intentional that it’s grassroots in this area,” she said. “I really want to grow it and test it out here. I’d be happier having 500 users that are active rather than 50,000 users with only 100 active. The goal is to really promote community, so if that’s the intention I’d rather just have it in one community that works rather than in 50 communities that works half the time.”
Images via Festi