Commune has officially launched its iPhone app aimed at planning grassroots community activities. While the app is available worldwide, the team is currently focusing its efforts on a few neighborhoods in New York City, such as Greenwich Village, Chelsea and Morningside Heights.
The startup began testing the app in NYC this spring with the help of students from NYU and Columbia.
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Commune is an attractive app with a forward-looking flat design, but it suffers from a weakness common to these kinds of social apps: critical mass. I signed up for my neighborhood, but there weren’t any events. Sure, a user could take the plunge and create the first event, but that’s going to be the exception.
When I jump over to a neighborhood like Greenwich Village that Commune has been focusing on, the app shows more promise. Still, Commune’s going to have to come from behind to catch up to pre-existing hyperlocal social networks like Nextdoor and At The Pool.
Then again, Commune founder Mikael Hveem maintains that he’s not out to create a social network. He bills the app as more of a “digital bulletin board” intended to help residents create peer-to-peer activities.
“The main purpose and goal is to digitalize the grassroots initiative on a local level. If it’s right there and in your neighborhood, you’re more likely to go it,” Hveem said.
To gain momentum, Commune has been reaching out to community organizers, local businesses, churches and other faith-based organization.
Commune’s business plan is to charge organizations, such as universities, a small subscription fee to create specific networks. The startup also plans to eventually help with transactions, such as ticketing, for which it will take a a fee.
Local events apps like Commune provide an important dimension to our smartphone usage. Smartphones and tablets are often blamed for making us more anti-social and isolated, but these tools can connect us to our communities and work in the opposite direction.
Hveem views Commune’s success in helping users to spend as little time in the app as possible. Of course, he wants them to come back often, but his goal is to create an experience where people can efficiently find activities around them and head offline to do just that.
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