Our Story - The Date Seat App

by Michael Laskowski
December 28, 2016

Our Story - The Date Seat App:

Over the past few weeks, I've had a lot of people ask how we came up with Date Seat and the idea of the app - and to be quite honest, we virtually solved our own problem of finding restaurants in Boston.

We self-funded Date Seat in early February of 2016 with the vision of one day running an app that everyone in Boston could use. A dining app that is free, simple, solves a problem, and is universal to everyone. After 8 months in the making, we finally launched in August of 2016. Our iOS app allows users to filter on a restaurants characteristics such as lighting, interior decor, proximity from other tables, noise level, attire, etc.. Users can also select restaurants from different categories like 1st date, classy date, casual date, after-work drinks, NFL Sundays, and many more. Perfect for Boston's vibrant restaurant/dating scene. This is our story:

The Beginning:

My name is Michael Laskowski - I currently live in the heart of Boston and I'm an avid foodie who frequently goes out to eat in the North End and other places around Beantown. I ended up meeting my good friend, and business partner, Jake Hajec through a mutual friend from high school and we ended up becoming really good friends thereafter. We aligned on the same things like business, investing, entrepreneurship, and having a dream of owning our own company; and that's exactly what we did.

Jake Hajec (left), Michael Laskowski

We started Date Seat in early February 2016 with the vision of solving our own problem of finding restaurants in Boston by atmosphere and ambiance. I remember coming back from a soccer game and I was talking to Jake on the phone about creating something big, something useful. I remember sitting there in my car saying "Jake, we need to create something." We were brainstorming all these ridiculous ideas, although, I can't remember any of them or what they were. We knew we wanted something in Boston that we could get up and running quickly - but we didn't know what. Jake asked "well what's our own problem that we have?". One of them just happened to be finding restaurants by atmosphere and ambiance. We'd always enjoy grabbing drinks after work and finding new places to eat in Boston. But the one issue we had was finding restaurants by characteristics like lighting, interior decor, proximity from other tables, and other attributes.

That's when we started to hunt around for businesses that offered these kinds of services. We looked through Yelp, TripAdvisor, and any other apps we could get our hands on that would help us find what we were looking for. Turns out, there wasn't much. These types of companies focus on having their users push reviews on food, leaving ambiance/atmosphere as a secondary asset. Yelp and TripAdvisor show words like "ambiance"  and "atmosphere" with a 1-5 star rating in their reviews, but it never solved our problem of actually finding restaurants by its characteristics. At the time, we saw that as having virtually zero value to us... And don't worry, I'm not bashing Yelp or TripAdvisor, as they do a great job of reviews and feedback of restaurants. It's just that we found those star ratings having almost no meaning to us personally, and we thought other people may have felt the same way too.That same night we hit the ground running and started our market research.

Over the next month, we put in the time to read up on the latest trends in the industry, researching blogs, finding articles, and learning about dining in Boston. Our initial draft of the app began just one month later in March 2016 where we started our MVP (minimum viable product) as well as wire-framed the app on a poster board.In my opinion, I think it's funny that all of our original sketches were done in Paint, the most basic program of any photo editing software to ever exist! Who would have guessed?

For the next few months leading up to summer, we came up with a plan of how we wanted to execute our data collection. We realized that our app was only as good as the data in it. And I think that's true in many cases in today's booming tech/data industry - many companies are beginning to realize the importance of having empirical data to drive business decisions. One of our core beliefs for our app is that we drive our decisions not off of assumptions, emotions, or opinions, but rather, live data and analysis. Having understood that, Jake and I visited almost 250 restaurants in Boston, taking hand written notes for each one, while analyzing the key importance of having a well thought out and structured database. We knew what we had to do.

For the summer months during 2016, we worked with our developer (Nick) and designer (Nate) to make it all come to life - importing data, reviewing app builds, and really working to make the app as functional as possible for our go-live release. Meeting after meeting, beer after beer, we continued to make improvements to each app build that was deployed to us (Nick, if you read this, thanks again for putting up with all of the requested changes we asked you to make!). As mentioned earlier above, we thought people felt the same way about atmosphere/ambiance, and sure enough, the surveys we deployed backed our hypothesis, reporting that nearly 70% of those in Boston between the ages of 18 to 35 feel ambiance/atmosphere is equal to or greater than tasteful food (+/- 2-3% MOE).

While Nick and Nate were grinding on the backend and interface, Jake and I were able to begin to build our user-base and social media presence. For the rest of the months ending summer, we focused on really ramping up our launch and getting our name out there.

By August 2016 we successfully went live in the App Store for iOS, beating our estimated number of downloads by nearly 300% in Month 1. We're now 4 months in and growing faster than - over 5000 followers across all of our platforms (and might I add, we've spent almost nothing on marketing/advertising YTD), nearly 2 more cities completed, 4 interns, 5 bloggers, and a team of nearly 15 people. We are continuing to expand our team and our app, and expect to takeover 5 more cities along the east coast ending 2017. We also plan on launching android during the Summer 2017, so make sure you stay tuned for that. It's crazy to think that just less than a year ago, all we had was an idea, a fugazzi, a concept.

I'd like to end with this:

We live in a world that extends 7000 miles long, holds 6 billion people, in a universe that LITERALLY goes on forever. It's mind-blowing to think about. When you put it in that perspective, I can't help but think that no goal or dream is unattainable. We as a human species are still so young, and there's so much to learn. Pick each other up, inspire others, bring out the best in people, and continue to strive toward your dreams. Try something new, and don't ever (and I repeat, EVER) be afraid to fail. In many cases, failure is the first step. I can't tell you the number of times I've failed trying new tasks, going outside of my comfort zone, and branching out by learning something new. You don't always figure it out the first time, so get back up and try again. Don't get discouraged. Dust your shoulder off and kick the dirt even harder. Keep grinding, follow your passion, and have no regrets. No matter what anyone says, you do you, and stick to the plan. I challenge YOU to try something new and take some risks.

It starts now. Go out there, and absolutely CRUSH your dreams. All the power to you.

-Mike

The Date Seat App can be downloaded for iOS by clicking here.

If you're looking to partner or blog with usclick here.

If you would like to intern with us please, click here.

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