Why I started Bloon

Organizing group activities is a pain in the ass

Every circle of friends has at least one ‘organizer’ who plans group activities. When an organizer suggests a group activity, the first thing that goes through an invitee’s mind is “who else is going?” to figure out if enough friends are also joining. You don’t want a situation where only the scheduler and I show up. That would be awkward (of course not with all friends, and not in all situations). When other invitees also think this, there can be decision paralysis where no one responds to the invitation because no one knows if other people are going. And then the organizer has to go around asking everyone else individually to join. Not an optimal process.

Organizers have already figured out how to solve this problem (aka building momentum) - they just ask a few friends personally if they want to go and start building momentum from there. They do this naturally without thinking that there’s a problem there. Get a few friends to commit, and then invite the broader circle of friends, who can then just respond right away because they know there’s going to be at least a decent sized group going.

I would rarely organize because I wouldn’t want to be stuck in that awkward situation. But there are many times when I would want to. For example, it would be great if my friends and I could get together for dinner on a weeknight if a handful of us happen to be free. But if I send out an email or text proposing that dinner the day of the dinner, people would be afraid to answer (and I wouldn’t want the situation where only one person joins either).

In college, day-of organizing for group dinners was a common occurrence. There are a few key differences from then and now:

  1. Proximity - it’s very easy for your friends to walk 100m and meet at the dining hall, but not so easy or cheap to get to a restaurant 5 miles away from home
  2. Schedules - now that we’re out in the real world, we all have different schedules and many often have to work late
  3. Personal life - people have significant others to spend time with, they want to just relax and watch TV. Despite all this, I believe that people would still want to meet up with friends if they knew there would be a decent sized group there - the more the merrier.

So, I wanted to make it easier and faster for organizers to get responses from invitees when they proposed a group activities, and for invitees to not hesitate to respond to invitations. This would be especially great for casual, impromptu (day of) group activities.

The key insight

The key insight, I thought, was that a critical mass was needed whenever a circle of friends were going to get together. If people knew that there would be a critical mass, then they wouldn’t worry about that and just join. And then, as an organizer, you wouldn’t have to try to build momentum by asking people individually. The bar for organizing would be lowered, and even non-organizers could easily organize.

The bigger vision was that Bloon would be the hub of everyone’s social lives, which would be incredibly valuable. There’s no service that aggregates our non-digital social lives; it’s all trapped within email, text, Facebook, group messengers. But it would be great for all of it to be in one place, where you can see all your options to socialize in real life and keep track of who’s coming to your activity. And of course one can imagine all the great ways of monetizing a service like that. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.