Dan Fennessy has had a crazy last couple of years: from growing up in tiny coastal Australian town, to working odd jobs, to persisting after the two co-founders left his nascent start-up, to having a baby. To now: he is a darling of the Silicon Valley world and boasts a hot nightlife app, Party With a Local, that already has more than 100K users and is helping globe-trotting millennials have better nightlife experiences.
Now together with his international and diverse team (from 5 continents, speaking 11 different languages) they aim to become THE app that connects people for nightlife, anywhere in the world. The team is passionate about fun nightlife experiences and also about meeting new people, so in many respects, they are solving their own problem. The Party With a Local team love seeing successful meetups, great nights out, and genuine friendships being formed via the app. The ability to bring people together for awesome experiences is what truly excites and energizes the team everyday.
From humble beginnings and many challenges faced along the way, the team and the app are now doing exceptionally well. They are now one of 10 teams participating in Techstars Connection, in partnership with AB InBev, in New York. Techstars is widely considered one of the best startup accelerator programs in the world, and less than 1% of applicants are accepted. Now, Party With a Local is focused on the US market specifically to create partnerships with some of the world's biggest brands and to build a vibrant community of nightlife enthusiasts - one party at a time.
Their relentless drive to succeed, their openness, their diversity, great team culture and sense of humor are the ingredients that hold Party With a Local together and give them an edge over the competition.
Recently, Inc sat down with Fennessy to discuss Party With a Local over coffee and this is what he had to say:
Why did you start Party With a Local?
Party With a Local came from my own experiences of traveling, and living abroad, and finding that a night out anywhere is better with a local, but it's not always easy to meet locals.
I did a 1 year 'round the world trip 10 years ago when I first experienced this problem. I was traveling from city to city in Asia, Europe, North America and Central America and wanting to go out, meet new people and sample the local nightlife.
More often than not I would have no idea where to go out, and end up at crappy or expensive tourist bars, only meet other travelers (especially other Australians) and generally have a bad night out. I'd gone traveling to experience new things and meet new people from all over the world, but it just wasn't happening.
In some rare cases I would randomly meet a local and have a totally different experience --meet amazing people, get the local perspective and go to bars, clubs and events that I would never have found on my own. But these experiences were few and far between. This is where the idea came from -- I just wanted to solve my own problem and have more of these great experiences.
Party With a Local has since expanded beyond just being a travel or new in town app, based on user behavior, to be about connecting anyone anywhere for nightlife. Not having people to enjoy nightlife with is a problem that a lot of people around the world face.
How exactly does the app work?
Whether it's to grab a drink, meet new people at festivals, or get nightlife tips, you can find like-minded friends through the app (no, not for dating). You can post a 'party status', join and share events, and just chat with people who are nearby and up for meeting up and going out to enjoy nightlife.
How is this different from a dating app?
It's very different. Party With a Local is all about community, and we make sure to encourage the right kind of culture within our app. We state clearly pre, during and post sign-up that Party With a Local is not a dating or hookup up, which people seem respond well too. You can review people who you've met via the app - which brings a level of trust to the people you are meeting (and something dating apps will never do, for obvious reasons). Also, people are more and more meeting up in groups, which is why we'll soon be launching our events feature - for more group interactions and meetups. We hear from many of our users, who say they really like Party With a Local, specifically because it's not about dating; its purpose is to meet new people for good times and nights out. We think the world is ready for a meet new people app that is not about dating or hooking-up. What better place to start than nightlife?
What are some of the best stories you've heard from people using Party With a Local?
We hear lots of stories of genuine connections being made and amazing experiences being had via our app. My favorite is Florian and Michael's story. The short version: Florian, from Stuttgart, met Amsterdam local Michael through the app. They became good friends, had lots of great nights out in Amsterdam. Florian went traveling in SE Asia and Michael decided spontaneously to fly to Bangkok to join him. They then used the app to organize a rooftop party with a bunch of people in the State Tower of Bangkok (where Hangover 2 was filmed).
What is the bigger vision for Party With a Local?
The core of our app is about connecting people. We aim to own the nightlife niche first, and it's a very big niche. Beyond that, we might move into other verticals, like eating out, shopping, other local experiences, but right now we're fully focused on nightlife. If we can keep playing a part in bringing people from different backgrounds and beliefs together around the world, that would be a huge win for us. Go out and meet someone new, someone different from you, grab a drink, discuss your differences, find middle ground - after all, connections trump hate!
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced?
I found out I was going to be a dad, right around the time I'd decided to go all-in on Party With a Local. Then it was still a self-funded startup that wasn't looking likely to make any money for the coming period.
Whilst I was happy and excited for what was to come with a baby, I couldn't get my head around how around how I would be able to combine a startup (an app connecting people for nightlife!), with my new responsibilities of being a father, and of supporting a family financially.
I agonized for weeks: Should I quit my startup and 'get a real job' to support my family? Most startups fail anyway, right? If I quit now, most people would understand, and in fact they'd think it was the responsible thing to do.
But the thought of quitting felt terrible to me. Like a lot of founders, my startup felt like my baby too, one that was nowhere near grown-up and hadn't reached it's potential yet, and the thought of letting it go now filled me with dread.
My girlfriend knew how much Party With a Local meant to me and was extremely supportive during this time. She told me to go for it, that we'd figure it out financially even if the app didn't work out. So while I was at times filled with doubt and anxiety, there was no doubt in her mind I needed to keep going and would succeed. Amazing support! I also spoke to a good friend at the time who said 'what does quitting now tell your future child about chasing your dreams? That you give up as soon as there's a challenge?' And: 'imagine in the future you have to tell your kid that because of him/her you had to give up on your dreams!' ...Right.
I kept going, more determined than ever to make it work. Becoming a father made me more focused and a better entrepreneur.
Disclosure: In addition to her role at Savvy, Ms. Devine is a member of the convenient solutions team under ZX Ventures, a subsidiary of AB InBev. AB InBev has a partnership with Techstars.