In these difficult times, human connections are more important than ever. The new Black-owned app, Qiirky, is here to help users create meaningful friendships and enjoy activities with like-minded individuals in a sophisticated way. Michael Pleasants, U.S. Navy service member and Qiirky developer, generously agreed to give a sneak peek into the app and share a few highlights on the app, which will officially launch next month.
In a conversation with QG, Michael shares how his life path and personal experiences led him to develop a new app with trademark features for the 21st-century user. Pleasants also offers advice for up and coming entrepreneurs who are launching their product in today's market.
What inspired the creation of your new app, Qiirky?
Since graduating from Teaneck High School in 2012, I have moved frequently. I lived in Hampton, VA, for two years while attending Hampton University on an academic scholarship. I then went back home for a year and enlisted in the Navy. Since then, I have lived in Illinois, Mississippi, Japan, and in multiple parts of California. Each time I moved, I faced the daunting task of building a new friend group.
I wanted to develop genuine connections with people, but currently, there's a weird dance we do with friendship. We do things we don’t like to be around people and hope that those we meet will have similar interests. It's like going to the club to find a buddy for a book club because it is the only place you know that will have people your age. Even though this system does not work, we continue to either participate or accept loneliness.
While I attended Hampton University, I launched an event planning business that successfully operated in three states and had seven part-time employees. I fell in love with entrepreneurship and the idea of building a business. I figured if I could curate physical experiences through events, there must be a way to curate connections utilizing technology.
What unique features set Qiirky apart from other apps designed to find friends?
There are a few features I think users are going to be pretty excited about, which are Adventures, Hangouts and Verification. I can’t say too much but Adventures will allow users to post activities they want to do and find users in their area to [join in] do those activities. Hangouts is a proprietary system we built to coordinate users meeting in real life.
If users meet using Hangouts, the app has a series of safety measures to include safety suggestions, live safety check-ups, post hangout check-ups and more. Additionally, we have a verification process where we vet the users' identity to ensure that the person you've connected with is who they say they are. We have built a system that handles the entire experience from meeting on Qiirky to meeting in real life to make it seamless and safe.
How does your app's approach to helping users find meaningful friendships differ from competitors?
The current apps on the market match users with only a few data points because their goal is to provide you as many candidates as possible. Our goal is only to provide quality. You will not be able to swipe endlessly through Qiirky. When users are connected on Qiirky, we promise that they have something in common, and hope that shared interests can serve as the building block for a meaningful friendship. The entire interface is built around two people getting to know each other. We have developed a system meant to highlight the full person, not just a profile pic.
As a new business, what advice do you have for someone who might be considering developing their own product?
Get out of your head and start talking to people. Every great business is the solution to a problem. There is no better way to find the solution than talking directly to your target demographic. Reach out to friends and family and pitch your idea and get as much feedback as possible. If you decide the approach is worth pursuing, do as much as you can by yourself before hiring anyone. You can do everything from designing your application's wireframe to creating a working digital porotype with free software like Figma or Bubble. Before a developer or designer ever worked on Qiirky, I built and rebuilt a basic version about ten times.
Since you've created an app to help users broaden their social horizons, why are friendships and human connections important to you?
Romantic relationships are often the relationships that people focus on but the amount of pressure we put on romantic relationships is unhealthy. Your significant other is not meant to fulfill all roles in your life, but too often people engage in relationships and cast away friendships. While people typically only have one significant other, you can have as many friends as you want.
In an ideal world, you would have a friend for every interest you have. That's the world we are creating with Qiirky. Many people settle on what I call "situationships" or friendships that occurred due to proximity like working together, living together, or being in the same place. We want your friends to be people who share your passions. If you love pizza, do not settle for someone that only loves burgers because there will be pizza lovers on Qiirky.
What experiences and benefits do you hope to provide for your app users?
In this "new normal" young people need to continue to foster meaningful friendships. COVID-19 has shifted many aspects of people's lives, and Qiirky provides its users with the opportunity to continue to add to their support system, even during this unprecedented time. Beyond that, we want to create a community that allows people to indulge in their passions by truly indulging in each other. No longer should friendship take the backseat to relationships because both are needed in our lives.