Alexey loves spending time around fun and interesting people, good food, and wine. He traveled the world, is passionate about India, and has strange addictions like powered paragliding--and he's going everywhere with his Hippopotamus (not a joke!).
1. How did you come up with the idea for Townhang?
I came up with the idea for Townhang when I tried to spend a few days after a business trip to Seattle to meet some locals to hang out with. Aside from dating sites and special interest groups, frankly, the options were very limited! Finding myself alone in a city of millions of interesting people felt like being marooned on a boat at sea: surrounded by water but nothing to drink. I am sure that lots of people feel similar to how I feel, because one of the most pressing symptoms of modern life is that millions of us live in big cities but find it increasing hard to make new friends or meet a partner.
Returning home and knowing I'd spotted an opportunity, I thought: wait a minute--something needs to be done here... And I started getting the team together right away!
2. Do you think the internet makes it harder in some ways and easier in other ways to make new friends?
Of course there is an ongoing debate around social networks and whether they made us more lonely and have replaced to some extent the real life interaction. It is a difficult question and certainly a very interesting one.
However, we are specifically interested in the impact internet has on our ability to meet new interesting people, and in this particular space we do not think that internet has been that helpful. Most of the social networks out there today are trying to duplicate your real-life connections (Facebook, LinkedIn), or trying to connect you in some shape or form to people you wish you knew personally (twitter).
But when it concerns actually meeting new people, we have spotted a genuine problem: it's not very easy for busy and affluent people to meet new people and make new friends. Towns are full of new, interesting people--if only there was an easy and natural way to connect with them! Current online space doesn't answer that need because most online outlets either connect people for dating, or they try to lock people in a particular group around a specific hobby or interest.
Meanwhile, there are millions of busy people living in crowded cities who still find it difficult, intimidating or just boring trying to meet interesting new people or even that special someone. You generally have to "go it alone," and that's neither fun nor very natural.
We believe that the only good way of meeting new people and making new friends is the natural way. The way it happens in real life. When you are out with your friends!
That's why we have designed Townhang.com in a way that recreates this real life environment and allows your group(s) of friends to connect with new interesting groups of people over something you all enjoy doing in real life. Lighthearted, fun, pressure-free and everything but awkward!
3. How is Townhang similar--and different--from other social networks?
Many online sites offer SOME elements of what Townhang.com offers. NOBODY does the same thing. The closest it gets to Townhang.com is Meetup.com.
However, there are quite a few fundamental differences:
1) Meetup.com invites you (alone) to join a big fixed group with a specific purpose e.g. dance tango at 7:00PM every Saturday. Townhang is much more spontaneous--your group of friends meets a small, like-minded group of people, over something you all want to do. Maybe you'll meet for a brunch and then tennis session, and end up going to an art gallery instead because your stomachs are too full and you can't be bothered to jump around. No pressure and no boring commitments.
2) On Meetup.com you have no control over who you will meet. If you like a certain activity, you just have to go along with an existing group that has been fixed long ago. On Townhang.com you decide weather you want certain people to join you or not. You can message in groups and individually, and you can see profiles of people you will meet and the feedback they have received and make a decision on the spot on whether you want to hang out with this person or not.
3) Townhang.com is more spontaneous overall: it's more about spontaneous things, rather than about an organized, recurrent activity of interest like Meetup.com.
4) Townhang.com is totally free :)
4. What happens on Townhang that allows people to make new local friends?
In a nutshell, Townhang.com is about rekindling the joy of making new friends while discovering all the exciting things your city has to offer. The site invites you and your group(s) of friends to connect with new interesting people and to hang out over a multitude of real-life happenings in a given city, that we call "Townhangs." Townhangs are in essence all sorts of things that different groups of people want to do, and when you go on Townhang.com the multitude of these happenings are visible on a page fpr your city. You can filter Townhangs by date or interest category to find things that you'd love to do in real life more easily. If nothing corresponds to what you looking for, you have good excuse to create your own Townhang with your buddies that your future friends can find and join in order to meet you for real!
We take our users' privacy very seriously, though, which means that we have developed a flexible system which allows each user to limit the visibility of their Townhang and protect some of the private information on it. This means we are ensuring that you will hang out with exactly who you want and share private information only with those who need to see it.
5. Are you planning to expand to other cities--and can people contact you if they are interested in seeing a community for their area?
Yes, of course--we are planning to be active in major cities of California within a few months, and then continue an aggressive expansion all over the United States and abroad.
The magic is that you can already create and join Townhangs from custom locations, which means Townhang.com is already everywhere, technically! The rest will depend on how quickly the word will spread and how active our users are. We believe that our earliest adopters will be ultra-social people living in big cities, holiday-makers and business travelers who are coming to a new city and want to experience it like a local, students (oh yes), young creatives, foodies, art-lovers, party animals, and everyone else looking to find like-minded people for fun hangouts!
To your question on whether its possible to contact us--what we do speaks for itself! We love meeting new, passionate, and interesting people with fresh ideas, and our email doors are always open for anyone that has one!