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www.thecliqapp.com

Chicago is a city where almost every day of the week there is a concert happening, a new bar opening and a unique improv show premiering.

It seems like there is an endless list of things to do, so why do people living in Chicago end up going to the same bars, seeing the same people and getting stuck in a mundane routine?

 

Nick Wieczorek and Chris Greenwood noticed this pattern and decided something needed to be done. They created a smartphone app, Cliq, for groups of friends to connect with other friend groups in Chicago and explore what the city has to offer. Cliq uses interactive technology to  take people out of the present technologies and routines they are absorbed in and bring them into a new, social Chicago community.

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CUSP Magazine sat down with co-founder Nick Wieczorek to find out more about the Cliq app and what it has to offer.

Q&A – CUSP Magazine & Cliq

CUSP Magazine: How did you come up with the idea for the Cliq App?

Nick Wieczorek: When I came back to Chicago from school, my friend and I talked about how we had this vision for the city to be a place where you can always explore, go to new places, meet new people, and you are kind of falling into it. After being here and experiencing it for about a year, we kind of just realized that is not the case. We realized that maybe because of a variety of the technology or the way that social apps have evolved, that people aren’t as comfortable meeting people and trying new things. There are tons of other groups of friends that felt the same way. You get stuck in your routine, you go to the same places, hangout with the same people, and there should really be a platform to expand your network and try new things on top of meeting people. It’s not a dating app motivated by sex like a lot of the other apps. It’s just a genuine feeling that people want to explore and don’t have a good way of doing it right now.

CM: How many people are a part of the original team?

NW: It’s only me and Chris who started it, but basically Katie and Jonah are founders as well. When we started getting real serious about it and raising money, we knew we needed a tech team in house, and Katie and Jonah are part of that team.

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CM: Did you have experience with making apps before?

NW: Yeah, I was an assistant engineering major at Virginia, and economics. I worked in finance for a couple years after school. I did a good amount of programming doing finance stuff. In terms of consumer facing technologies, not that much. I am more data-based type, but that is what Jonah does. He is our CTO, he does our back end stuff. The whole IOS side of things, which is what Katie does, was totally foreign to me. I learned a lot.

CM: What was your original plan in college?

NW: The story I told about coming to Chicago, that was the catalyst for doing this, but this idea was always kind of in the back of my head for a very long time. [It was] just a way to break down barriers for groups of friends from meeting each other. I was doing finance at the time and worked for a hedge fund after school for two years, so that was the plan. Just because of that catalyst, from being here and experiencing it, I decided to go for the startup.

CM: Are most of your users from the Chicago area?

NW: We are only in Chicago right now. We are working on an update that will allow anyone, anywhere to use it. But we are confined to Chicago right now. We want to master the Chicago market and have people using it here, learn from them, iterate on the product, and then open it up. We have been doing that for some time, and we are just now feeling ready to open it up. We will still concentrate on Chicago.

CM: Why is Chicago an important city for the app?

NW: I grew up here, and I have good network here. But there is kind of this social behavior in Chicago where people tend to go out with their group of friends and not really mingle as much, and they kind of get stuck in the scenes, a lot like I talked about. Is it a specific to Chicago problem? No, but I know it is a problem here. I know the market really well here, so we thought it made a lot of sense to launch here. The only downside is there is not as much consumer facing tech companies. But people want to help consumer technologies here as well, so it helps and it hurts. There are less resources, but more people are willing to help.

CM: What would you say your brand is?

NW: I would say we are a trendsetter, outgoing. … We are like that person who gets everyone to go and do something — meet a new group or go to a cool concert in a place that people would not have gone. We are like that person trying to get people to explore, to do things and realize the potential of the night.

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CM: I think it is interesting that your team uses technology to make people do that, because technology tends to stop people from connecting.

NW: It’s something we talk about a lot, using technology to get off technology and bringing online interaction to stem offline interactions.

Nick – “We really offer a way for people to realize the full potential of their night, a way to casually meet people without it feeling creepy or whatever. We really want to build a community of normal people that are just trying to explore the city together.”

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CM: What is offered to someone who gets the app?

NW: The point where we really hit people, and one of the ways we designed the app we did, is because there is this feeling people get from 6-9 p.m. when you are trying to figure out what you are doing that night. Whether you are in a text group with your friends or sitting around, it’s like “Where are we going to go?” or “What are we going to do?” A lot of the times you are asking those questions the whole night, until you are where you always are or somewhere you don’t want to be. We really offer a way for people to realize the full potential of their night, a way to casually meet people without it feeling creepy or whatever. We really want to build a community of normal people that are just trying to explore the city together.

CM: Would you say Cliq is targeted towards a certain age group?

NW: We definitely don’t want to be type casted as just for people who are very young, right out of school. We think there is a place for this for any group of friends, like couples, whoever. It’s proven to be a little bit harder to get couples to use something like this, but we think that over time this kind of social behavior of using tech to spontaneously meet people will make them want to use it as well. So I wouldn’t say we are targeted toward people, but it is definitely easier to convince younger people that go out more to use something like this.

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CM: What makes Cliq unique?

NW: I would say it is kind of the stuff we have been talking about, like trying to get people to interact in real life. For a lot of apps, it is better for business if people are engaged in the actual app for long periods of time. Facebook is a great example. They do millions of things to try and get you to stay on there for hours at a time. What we want to do is actually use the app to get people off the app and talking in person. Everything we do is to try and get that to happen more efficiently, so it’s a pretty unique concept in that way. We are not trying to make all of these features to get you to stay in the app, we really just want to most efficiently get people to meet each other.

CM: Have you ever used the app? If so, do you have a favorite memory?

NW: Yeah, I have used it a bunch of times. It’s funny that we talk about bringing it off the phone. … So what we do is, say I invited you to meet up and your group says yes, we will just throw everyone into a group chat, and they will figure it out. They get pretty funny. It’s just with a text message conversation evolving between everyone. There might be one friend who is out of town and saying whatever because they don’t care. Obviously I have had some great times meeting up with people, but the chats are really funny as well.

CM: Walk me through the process. After you buy the app, what is the next step?

NW: The barrier to entry used to be a lot higher. For example, we used to tell you about that app and then say “you have to use it with your friends,” and a lot of people were dropping off at that step. So we changed it so that you are shot into the app right away. You log in, and then you can see all the cliques that we have that are going out and are active on the app. We are trying to show you the value right away. It is pretty fun just looking at groups of people you can meet up with. Then, once you invite a group to chat to talk about where you want to meet up, that’s when we prompt you with the “to use the app you have to be with friends.” Then we will have a really simple process where you shoot an email out to your friends saying “Hey, do you guys want to use this app with me?”

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CM: How have people responded to it?

NW: We did this program, which we are still doing, at the beginning where we rewarded our insiders [who we launch to]. It’s basically an open beta where you can download it, but we launched to a specific group of 2,000 people at the beginning. Say Jonah and me asked your cliq if you want to meet up tonight, we will throw us all in a chat. But if we have a tickets to a concert that is happening that night, we will just give free concert tickets to all of us. So those have been really fun. There have been tons of pictures on social media about it. We had an ‘80s cover band concert at Joe’s on Weed, which was really fun. The success stories are still starting to build up, but it’s still kind of early.

CM: How do you pick which concerts and events you use on the app?

NW: We kind of curate things. We also pick venues that we suggest people to go to. Those are just ones that we have been to. If you think about our high level goal of getting people to interact offline, we wouldn’t send people to a club where there is going to be blasting music so you can’t even talk to each other. [We look for] any kind of casual setting where it feels comfortable to go and interact with each other, but where it is not stuffy and you’re not sitting at a table where you can’t get up and leave comfortably either.

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There is no longer any excuse as to why you’re not meeting new people and exploring all that Chicago has to offer. Wieczorek and his team at Cliq have provided an easy-to-use app that helps connect people in Chicago to the places of Chicago. Cliq’s concept of using technology to take people out of technology is an innovative process that helps users get to know their community as well as build their community. Maybe you will end up joining Wieczorek’s Cliq and sharing a memorable group chat, maybe you won’t. But as long as you are on Cliq, you will be sure to create some memories that are better than going to the same bar with the same people every Friday night.

 

To find your own Cliq, download the Cliq app in the appstore or on their website. Also, be sure to connect with Cliq on Twitter and Facebook.

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Christian Ianniello
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