Four years of college isn’t a particularly long time to get to know the ins and outs of the new town or city that students find themselves in — and many students find it hard to figure out what’s going on in the community around them. Will Powers, a graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder who transferred into the school for his senior year, found upon arriving that it was hard to get information about events taking place off-campus. His company, location-centric events site Lokalite — which currently focuses solely on Boulder, Colo. — aims to bridge that gap, giving college students an off-campus guide and bringing a new set of customers to small businesses with each semester.
Street Fight caught up with Powers recently to discuss how Lokalite facilitates those relationships, and why campuses are particularly good targets for hyperlocal.
What’s the idea behind Lokalite?
Basically, we talk to all these small businesses, develop a rapport and relationship with them, and we work with them to facilitate the adding of their events to our site. Either they’re adding their events or someone here is adding their events, or however is easiest for them to do it.
Most small businesses are too busy working in their business — not on their business. So that’s what we do. And we can provide a significantly high level of accuracy compared to other competitors. [The accuracy of] our event information is 95% as opposed to some of our competitors, who are basing all [their] of information and all their data on [information found on] the internet. They’ll have information on businesses that no longer exists, so it’s kind of irrelevant information for any user.
With this next iteration that’s coming out in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be adding a more social aspect to our events, because our events are inherently social and we want to bring that experience online and facilitate that experience offline.
Are there specific local events you’re targeting, or do you have a broad spectrum you’re approaching?
When we initially started Lokalite, we had wanted to have an all-encompassing platform. We wanted happy hours, yoga, bar specials, movies at Boulder Theater, concerts… all this stuff. We quickly realized that that’s so much information and it’s so overwhelming. We still want to do that, and that’s where we’re going, but now we’re focusing on specific verticals and specific companies in specific areas that our demographic is really [looking for] — what they do and where they go. We want to cater to that a little bit more and provide them with the information that is most relevant.
Who are your customers? Is it mainly a young demographic?
Right now our users are from 18 to 30. We’ve been really good at getting that demographic to really jump on board and see what we’re doing. We didn’t really want to cater to the 30-and-above demographic — not that we don’t want to do that eventually, it’s just that that’s a domain that we are not really experiencing. We don’t really know the events that parents like. We wanted to give something back to our demographic and build something that we would want to use and that we do use.
Most small businesses are too busy working in their business — not on their business. So that’s what we do.
What’s the connection between college campuses and local businesses? What’s the dynamic there?
Getting [local businesses] to engage in these online platforms has actually been a pretty decent challenge. Whenever a new platform comes up that’s targeting students… because there’s a high turnover each year if you get more students in, the businesses want to see results immediately. They don’t realize that this is a great demographic to get, because if you get them when they’re 18, 19, 20, and they find your small business or your restaurant, they more often than not turn into a loyal customer.
We’re starting to educate those companies that they have to put their time and effort to reach these students, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to do that by just simply letting them add their information onto our platform and letting us do the rest of the work. Let us get the students’ information, let us market and advertise to them — and from there, let the small business provide the experience that is going to grab the lifelong customer.
Are you planning a mobile aspect for the service?
Mobile apps are a pretty hot issue [for us] right now. There’s this whole ecosystem that you can leverage, but then you have the people on the other side saying that apps are becoming cumbersome —there’s too many apps and people are overwhelmed with apps. Most people only focus on five to ten apps at most.
Right now, we do have an iPhone app out, just to test that usage, see what people are thinking, and get some feedback. We realize that if you’re going to multiple events, you’re probably going to do it in a setting where you’re more likely to do it on your mobile phone to find that kind of information. With this next iteration, we actually have a mobile-optimized portion of our site that is going to allow any user with any phone to access Lokalite in a mobile-friendly, optimized way. Like I said, that’s coming out in the next iteration. We are focusing on mobile. We realize mobile has to be a big part of our strategy. Right now we’re just focusing on getting the web portion and event creation part right where it needs to be and then kind of going into that next portion of the strategy.
Isa Jones is an intern at Street Fight.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.