The idea for HotMaps first came to Will Hampton in 2014. “Every weekend, and sometimes during the week, my friends and I would ask the same question: where is the best place for us to go out?” he said. “I was frustrated by the available tools, especially given how frequently I needed an answer.”
So on June 29 Will Hampton and Bill Lynch, 2010 College graduates, launched HotMaps, a social networking app that streamlines the search for nightlife locations using a numerical rating system.
In contrast with Yelp, which is text-based, and a simple Google search, which produces unsubstantiated and non-customizable lists of the “top” or “best” bars in a city, HotMaps allows users to quickly find the best places to go out, tailored to their individual preferences.
The app features multicolored, responsive maps — making it easy to zoom in find which locations are most popular, as well as filters for time and preferences — such as age, noise level, energy, attire and price.
Like Yelp, HotMaps is driven by users. Users add locations and then give them both an overall rating from zero to 100 and ratings for individual features. A formula embedded in the app calculates a user’s “Sway” based on their previous ratings, and users with more “Sway” have more influence on locations’ ratings.
“HotMaps is part of a larger movement, especially with young people toward customization,” Hampton said. “We have customized clothes, customized majors, and we’re developing customized medicine, so why not customize your night with HotMaps?”
The app allows users to link their Facebook accounts and connect with their friends. Searching and following other users on the app’s activity feed make it easy to coordinate plans and find the venues most relevant to the user.
Hampton and his team are currently working on expanding HotMaps across the east coast, with more than 200 users in Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City since the app’s debut. But Hampton also anticipates that the app could be especially useful for travelers, who would be able to find places suited to their preferences within minutes.
“It can be used anywhere, but there are tens of thousands of places to add, so we are focusing our expansion on just a few cities for now,” Hampton said. “If you zoom out you can see the places all over the world where users have traveled and tested it.”
As part of their launch strategy, the HotMaps team is making use of social media and word-of-mouth routes. “We hope that after the official launch and a couple thousand users, we will be able to fully utilize the functionality to see what’s popular at this minute in a part of the city,” Hampton said.
Hampton also stressed the importance of strong Penn support for the app. “We hope that many of the first 2000 HotMaps users are from the Penn community because we trust their instincts and value their feedback,” he said.
While HotMaps is already in the interviewing process for its first two interns, there are other ways for the Penn community to get involved. Unpaid part-time internships are available for those wanting to gain experience in the startup tech industry, Hampton said. “We’d like to leverage as much creative Penn energy as we can.”
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