As studies pop up suggesting social media makes us miserable and some countries go as far as legally restricting children from using digital technology, Ashot Mnatsakanyan and Rafael Harutyunyan are trying to incorporate both to help people “discover” each other offline.
The cofounders of Abu Dhabi-based app developer BROgrammers launched Jeltee just over two weeks ago in the UAE: it’s an app that connects people looking for a coffee buddy, a lunch companion or a fellow cinephile, without having to reverse-engineer dating apps like Tinder.
It then rewards them with restaurant deals or movie discounts when they meet in real-life and end the cycle of “endless chatting” online, which Mnatsakanyan says is how Tinder and Snapchat keep their users engaged with their platforms.
“Jeltee comes from the word ‘jeldi’, which means rush or hurry in Hindu,” Mnatsakanyan told Wamda, emphasising that it’s not a dating app.
He says the app borrows from Tinder by linking users via a like-or-pass swipe function; Snapchat as matched users have a mere 24 hours to decide whether to meet; and Groupon as if the invitation is accepted they get discounts at the selected venue.
Mnatsakanyan is particularly happy with the Groupon-style discount concept. The discount is only activated if both users meet in the same place, and he’s considering patenting the software they’ve created to do this.
Users can invite each other out for events within one of the four categories of bars, restaurants, coffeeshops and hand-picked venues, but in future there are plans for a section where people can invite friends from Facebook to events, so they can still access discounts without having to ‘make a match,’ and also a ticket buying feature.
“We believe that current social networks and apps put too much focus on virtual experiences and keeping their users hooked on to their devices. This makes the user comfortable but fails to provide the excitement of face-to-face interaction,” Harutyunyan said. “Jeltee is designed to change that. By providing an effective reward system, we will be able to successfully encourage people to go offline and see each other in real life.”
So far Jeltee has been downloaded from the iOS app store by more than 2,000 people, has 600 active users and logged around 200 invites. The company estimates they’ve made about $2000 for UAE businesses through the Groupon-like incentive scheme.
Mnatsakanyan speculates that the app’s popularity is partly due to people liking having a way to ease the awkward process of finding new friends in a big city, and partly because phone company Etisalat blocked Tinder in the UAE almost two months ago, as dating sites are banned in the Emirates.
Plans are afoot to make Jeltee available in the Windows store by the end of the month and Mnatsakanyan and Harutyunyan are currently seeking seed investment of $70,000 in order to launch it in the Android store as well, but still focused on the UAE.
Jeltee will have to prove itself in the UAE market first to show the business model actually works.
It will, eventually, make money through advertising revenue as businesses pay to be featured on the app, Mnatsakanyan says.
The two cofounders are beginning to look at developing the business side now that they have a solid user-base to sell to prospective partners, with an expected customer acquisition cost of $16 projected revenue per user.
“The idea of launching initially in UAE is important for testing the potential of our future expansion as the population is largely formed by expats from all over the world,” Mnatsakanyan said. “Our success in the UAE market will provide valuable experience and insights before launching in other countries worldwide.”
"We're not afraid of competition with Tinder or Foursquare so we're thinking of moving to New York or London, and interesting to consider is the Russian market."
The duo expect organic growth to come from the Middle East. Mnatsakanyan pinpointed Egypt as a strong candidate to consider moving into, and Saudi Arabia as a market which would be difficult, given the country’s strict rules around gender separation.