5. October 2012–
What’s all the hype about, Vamos? The free social events app is one of the hottest topics in the Berlin startup scene at the moment and is making waves internationally, too. Launched on the iTunes app store in August this year, Vamos is rapidly gathering users (and publicity).
Your shortcut to finding events anywhere in the world
The nicely designed app taps into Facebook to let you find all public events happening right near you, right now, no matter where you are. Vamos also shows you which events your friends are going to. The team want to offer the ultimate solution to the question of "what am I going to do tonight?", especially targeting travellers who are searching for something to do in unfamiliar cities. They plan on expanding from Facebook to all sources of events and are currently working on an Android version.
The team behind Vamos are the four founders: Luis-Daniel Alegria, David Prentell, Jens Dressler and Erik Collinder. And though it might not seem like it from photos like the one of Luis on the right, lately they’ve been hard at work adding a new feature to the app.
The new tool, added this week, helps users finds the most popular events taking place, so instead of ending up at some old lady’s Tupperware party, you’ll be raving with the 3000 other attendees at a huge warehouse shebang with the so-hot-right-now DJ. The update also has additional iOS 6 and iPhone 5 support.
Co-founder Prentell is happy with the way the app is progressing. And he has every right to be, with Vamos being adopted around Europe and even internationally. “The product can be used globally, at the moment it’s the strongest in Germany, Sweden and the UK, but the US is doing surprisingly well too. That was totally unexpected as we didn’t do any PR pushes over there. We think it’s because of all the Americans coming over to Berlin!”
Users aren’t only testing out Vamos as a one-time thing. The founders tell me they have great retention rates, with an average of 15-20% of people checking the app daily.
Vamos - born one unexciting night in Amsterdam
This could explain some of the buzz surrounding Vamos. Alegria is convinced it’s also the background story of how the app was developed that is intriguing people...
The idea first sparked when Alegria and Prentell were in Amsterdam one Thursday night last year and, like many foreigners in an unfamiliar city, they were at a loss for things to do. Finding little of interest in Lonely Planet or online, they ended up having a less-than-spectacular night and vowed to fill this gap in the market.
With the seed for Vamos sown there was no slowing the founders down; in February they gathered 40 of their closest hacker friends in Berlin to work together on developing the concept. “It was a completely crowd sourced project, everyone was contributing everything; from the video to the investor pitch, the design, etc etc,” Alegria explains.
While some people choose to go to the pub to catch up with friends, the Vamos founders decided to work on the app to keep their group together. “So you can say that Vamos has four founders, but we’re actually a team of 40 colleagues.”
Keeping the Vamos family even closer knit is the fact that they're keen to have friends and co-workers potentially invest in the app. “We’re staying social by, one, creating a product that helps people find their friends and, two, by trying to make this an experiment of creating a company and vision with the people who have been involved with from the very beginning, instead of some investors that we don’t know.”
But why did the founders decide to set up Vamos in Berlin? Prentell tells me it's because “right now, there is an influx of talent coming to Berlin. Silicon Valley is a lot more spread out and less fun, to be honest. Plus Berlin has this incredible amount of stuff going on. There are more events happening in Berlin on an average weekend than in New York, which is crazy.”
"We think it's part of our job to educate people" - How Vamos is navigating the privacy issues
While trawling through hundreds of events on Facebook might add to the excitement of finding the perfect thing to do on the weekend, one concern for an app like Vamos is that private events will make their way onto public lists.
Alegria doesn't necessarily think this is a bad thing. He wants people to recognise some of the potential pitfalls of being ignorant about privacy on Facebook:
“We only show events that are public. So if someone makes a birthday or Grandma's knitting event public, then people will be able to find it on Vamos. But we think it is part of our job to educate people. We have an important role to let people know that once they've made a public event it’s not just Vamos that has access to it but any other third party company that uses the Facebook API.”
That’s all well and good, but it remains to be seen what will happen if a party gets out of control due to not-so-invited guests turning up after finding an event on Vamos. The team is working on better filters to stop this happening.
Profits? Coming soon
Luckily, these concerns haven't stopped organisers expressing their interest in working with Vamos to promote events. While the app's connections with events have not yet resulted in any physical dollars in the bank, it does give Vamos invaluable exposure, even if for now the team is bootstrapping to get by. This means eating a lot of kebabs, Alegria tells me. Times are looking up for Vamos though; their work with Social Media Week Berlin, EyeEm and Tech Open Air Berlin attracted plenty of attention from other organisers.
Where they'll go from here is anyone's guess – the sky is the limit for this app. Right now Vamos is trying to tackle more European markets, with Prentall and Alegria in Sweden when I spoke to them. What's their tip for cracking the Swedes and getting them onboard with Vamos? “Get them to drink alcohol. That’s when they get happy and share more.” Alegria, a Swedish-born Chilean, tells me. Seems like this technique just might work out for them.
For related reading, check out
The 10 apps that will change the way we travel… forever
Vamos goes beyond Facebook, integrates with Eventbrite for Tech Open Air Berlin
BMW Guggenheim Lab in Berlin – 10 app ideas to disrupt daily urban life