In the emergency room after a less than successful game of soccer, seven friends from Tech — two alumni and five students — came up with an idea. Originating from a conversation about their coincidental relationships, comprised mostly of three generations of PL-resident friendships, the idea sparked a vision for a social media app called Rivet.
The group, comprised of Connor Hutcherson, Kevin Veloso, Mitchell See, David Ferretti, Matt Nelson and Kyle Grinstead, has been working since October 2014 to establish their app.
“A lot of it comes down to coincidence and whom you end up crossing paths with. We were talking about how it might be interesting to make an app that makes it easy for you to just meet people,” said recent graduate, Kevin Veloso, BME ’15.
You might wonder what makes this app different from Facebook, Twitter and Yik Yak. Rivet is focused on one-to-one conversations. It is anonymous, personal, and location-based, allowing users to converse with people within a mile to a mile-and-a-half radius.
“Consider Facebook — you’re sharing with all the friends that you already have, with Yik Yak it’s like an anonymous bulletin board, and even with Twitter, anonymous or not, it’s all just like a bulletin board . You’re posting stuff out there for people to feed off of,” Veloso said.
“It’s not necessarily bad to have everyone’s input — that can be good and helpful at times — but on the other hand, you only really get to know people when you’re in that smaller setting, and you don’t have everyone’s two cents on something.”
“We’re trying to describe [Rivet] as almost a hyper-local Facebook messenger, except that you don’t have a username. There’s no sign-up, no email — so really the goal of our app is to connect people who are in the same vicinity — in our case, a college campus,” said Connor Hutcherson, a second-year IE.
With a little extra help from friends and family, the group worked on branding, designing, coding and marketing their app.
“The naming of our app was actually more crippling than you would ever think,” Hutcherson said. “The naming process took us forever. And we all decided we’re no longer naming anything ever again.”
The group started with the name “Fire,” but decided that it was too similar to Amazon Fire and Tinder, so they switched to the name “Iceberg” since it seemed relevant in that it represented diving below the surface to explore the community and meet new people. “The reason why we didn’t go with that name was because we woke up one day to a cease and desist letter from a guy in New York who was actually developing a social networking app called Iceberg,” Hutcherson said.
“It was pretty different, but still the exact same name. So that was kind of a buzz kill because we really liked that one. We went back to the drawing boards, and I came up with Rivet, and I liked it because a rivet holds two things together. And then also, riveting conversations.”
The next step was to create a logo.
“The engineering minds would always say, we should use actual rivets, and I was like — ‘guys, you know what a rivet looks like, right?’ It looks pretty ugly,” said Veloso. “So we finally came up with a frog because people would confuse Rivet with ‘Ribbit.’ That became really annoying, but after a while we decided to embrace it. People are going to say ‘ribbit’ and it doesn’t matter how we pronounce it. So frog it is.”
Financially, the group started almost from scratch. “We hadn’t outsourced any of the work for any of the coding, which is definitely what would be the most expensive part of it,” Hutcherson said. “There were some legal fees, so we all just pitched in certain amounts in the beginning.”
Veloso also took an online entrepreneurship class through MIT and Amazon for which Amazon gave him $1,000 for completing the course. The course entailed creating business plans and value propositions — essentially everything Rivet needed to do to successfully build up their company.
“It made things a lot easier because I was basically submitting the things we had already made,” Veloso said.
In addition to the course, the group started a Kickstarter campaign, setting their goal at around $2000.
Coordinating the design, coding, and marketing aspects of creating an app can be arduous, but there are peaks as well as troughs.
“If there were any individual moments of particular brilliance, it would be anytime we came through a big breakthrough.
“One of the hardest parts is when one or two people are working on a specific task that is very hard to accomplish and five people are sitting around doing nothing because we have to wait for those two people. The name for instance — once we figured out ‘this is what we’re going with, we’re happy with this,’ then a million things opened up for everyone to do.
“It was also fun sharing with our other friends who weren’t even strictly on the team; bouncing ideas off of people and getting their opinions,” Veloso added.
“We talked to our Industrial Design and Architecture friends to get some feedback on the design and colors, and then some of our other CS friends were super interested in all these other aspects, and were bouncing ideas off of us.
So at the very least it was a lot of fun to just be talking about something we were creating with other people because it’s a more interesting topic than ‘how’d the finals go, or how was your last test.’ And of course, we got to hang out all the time.”
Rivet has already done a significant amount of marketing through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and their website. Unlike the beginnings of other social media platforms, Rivet has a blog that allows people to read their story of how the idea for Rivet originated, prototyping of the app, their Kickstarter campaign, and even some freshman PSAs.
“At first our posts were just updates on what we were doing each week, and then we decided to start writing the blog series based on how we went about designing things and coding things, and coming up with the name,” said Veloso. “Then we have PSAs for freshman that are basically like your Buzzfeed, Clickbait, Top Ten ‘The fifth one will surprise you’ kind of thing – just interesting stuff for our friends and family to read.”
“With the blog, it really does reflect what we want to do with the app,” said Hutcherson. “We are really looking to connect people, so when we put out our blog posts it’s just honest transparency. Hopefully that translates to how people use the app, and how the app can affect the GT community.
They will also be marketing at several campus-wide events including Wreckfest, for which Rivet is a sponsor, T-night, and a launch day event at Yogli Mogli. “We’ve been marketing toward some freshman, so we’re getting certain PLs to bring in their residents. If they bring them in and are part of the first one hundred to get there and have downloaded the app, they get three dollars off their frozen yogurt, which is basically like free frozen yogurt,” said Hutcherson. After the first one hundred, it’s 20% off for everybody else that comes in and downloads it. And we’ll be having some giveaways there as well.”
In the long run, the group hopes the app will reach people across campus, throughout the United States, and hopefully across the world. “We genuinely care about getting people to connect with other people, so what I love about the app is the 100% transparency — you have no reason to be dishonest, so long as, in the long run, we’re still connecting people,” Hutcherson said.
“You could get on there to find a friend; you could get on there to talk about your problems. There are so many things you could use the app for, so long as, at its core, it’s still helping people.
And if it winds up staying in Atlanta, if it still is building a community for people, it’s accomplishing a goal. In my opinion, Tech is very embracing of things that are homegrown, which I think will encourage people to really help promote it. ”
Rivet will be launched this Sunday, August 23.