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Meet Ryan Lee of Joinful

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ryan Lee.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Ryan. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
Alan, my co-founder, and I were having dinner at a Thai restaurant one day, and we eventually talked about having an app where locals can take tourists to do local activities.

After doing some research, we realized that there was another app that was already doing this concept and their design was really well, so we decided to pass on that idea.

Additionally, my mom thought that doing these “activities” from a one to one basis seemed dangerous, and so our concept sort of evolved to what it is currently.

Today, with Joinful, we are a platform for anyone to search by cities to find activities hosted by other users, or they can host their own activities. We emphasise on the word activities because we want our users to do things such as happy hour, brunches, sports, or exploring the city together, wine tasting, rather than events where too often you are at an event not to meet people as there is often a purpose and the large audience size is too intimidating and noisy.

We are trying to solve multiple problems with our platform. First of all, Alan and I had the fortunate experience of studying together at University of Southern California (USC), and back at USC, it was so easy to contact a friend to go get soon tofu even at 2 am. Once you have graduated, we realized personally and through our research that making new friends as an adult is extremely difficult. As such, we wanted our platform to allow people to potentially meet new friends by sharing a common experience or interest together.

Another problem we are looking to solve is the fact that many of our apps have made it more convenient to communicate with each other, but ironically our relationships have actually become more distant from one another. We’ve essentially become more and more glued into the digital realm. We want our platform to do the opposite, which is to use a digital means to promote more real-world interactions and relationships.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve learned is aligning the expectations between us and our mobile app vendor. Currently, we have outsourced our app development to an app development vendor in Hong Kong. Given the lack of experience I have in coding, I expected our app to easily be similar to Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram in terms of smoothness and design and speed, which actually is much more difficult than it looks to execute such perfection.

There are also issues with communication, where what you expect may be misunderstood from the app developer’s point of view, so we had to pay extra to clear up the issues, and I’ve also learned to be much more detailed in describing what exactly I want and why I want it to be that way.

Thirdly, as an amateur entrepreneur, you have a perfect vision of what something looks like in your mind, and I was pointing out to my app development vendor on all these bugs we had to fix, even the most minuscule ones. I’ve learned to realize that we are all limited by time and money, and I’ve learned to prioritize what are the most crucial parts of the app which we have to fix, and leave the minor details and put it in a list for things to do when we have more time.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Joinful – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Our app is really simple – anyone with an iPhone (Android in the future) can download our app for free, join activities by other users or host activities in any city you want. I personally am responsible for anything that’s not tech related, so the website, marketing, admin, finance, fundraising, all of that is on me. We specialize in activities, so anything that is conducive to meeting new people or doing something people are interested in, and we cap each activity to be less than 20 persons to promote the feeling of a friendship group.

We understand that there is always uncertainty with trusting someone, especially with a stranger. Not only do we ensure that our app design is of high quality to give the feeling of a trustworthy platform, from the look and feel of the app, but we also allow users to give ratings and reviews after each activity to rate the quality of the activity, which the host could also be a factor.

We even have a feature for the host to optionally (but highly recommended) to ‘check in’ to mark down their GPS location on the day they host an activity, to ensure that if there are any disputes that the host didn’t show up, we could have evidence. Lastly, we allow users to add friends, see what their friends have joined or hosted on the friends’ calendar, and to be notified when any friends have hosted or joined an activity.

I think I’m most proud of the app design and our mission of getting people to have more real-life interactions. Just from my personal experience, I think people are starting to wake up from this “social media addiction” and want to spend more time with the physical world rather than the digital world. I’m not saying social media is terrible with adequate amounts, but too much of it can be too distracting.

What I’m most excited about Joinful is the potential of what our platform could become. I’m currently based in Hong Kong, so if I ever feel like doing something or wanting to learn something new today or tomorrow, I could open up Joinful and see what cool stuff other users are doing. Or if I’m traveling to somewhere say San Diego, I could create an activity to see if anyone’s down to go to the San Diego Zoo together or grab dinner together.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We’re so new that our initial milestone is just getting users on board. Listening to feedback from our users is going to be crucial so we’d be interested to see what the users say and how they actually use our app before we commit into any big changes. Some features we hope to include would be to improve the maintenance of friendships and to introduce audience type filtering options for the hosts.

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