A Q&A with DormChat founder Adam Michalski. The Hoboken, New Jersey-based startup, which offers a mobile communications platform for colleges and universities, launched out of beta last week with Seed funding from ff Venture Capital, amount undisclosed at this point. It was founded earlier this year, and this is its first round of outside funding.
SUB: Please describe DormChat and your primary innovation.
Michalski: DormChat is literally the easiest way to communicate and connect with your local community.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Michalski: We’re 100 percent focused on college students and require an ‘@university.edu’ email to sign in.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates DormChat from the competition?
Michalski: Yik Yak is our closest competitor. We’re different in that DormChat is all about conversations, where Yik Yak’s product design makes it more a bathroom stall where people post all types of nonsense.
With DormChat, you can share using a profile or an anonymous handle, share photos, and start direct messages. You can think of DormChat as really a localized Twitter.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve launched out of beta with new funding. Can you reveal the amount of the funding?
Michalski: We’re not disclosing the funding amount, but are happy to announce John Frankel from ff Venture Capital is joining our board of directors.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Michalski: The market for local communication is just starting to pick up, and we’re in a great place to provide the best solution given we’ve been studying this market for almost a year. We’re only in the first inning, but the demand for a beautiful, easy-to-use, fun product is there—it’s just a matter of which team provides the best solution. We’re putting the company in a great place for that team to be us.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds, and do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Michalski: The funding will be used to improve our iOS and Android products, as well as add some great people to the team. We’re focused on product right now, but we’ll certainly be chatting with additional investors in the near future.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for DormChat? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Michalski: When I was at Penn State, there was never an easy, fun way to connect with everyone on campus. It seemed obvious at the time that there should be such a forum, but at the time I didn’t know how to solve it. Now I do.
It really blew my mind that nobody figured this out yet, so I figured why not give a try. We’ve had fantastic feedback with the current version of DormChat. The product will evolve with time, but one thing won’t change—we’re hyper-focused on creating the easiest way for people to communicate and connect locally.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Michalski: Back-and-forth from my bedroom to grab coffee.
Just kidding, but in all seriousness, DormChat actually started out of my bedroom. We would work around-the-clock honing the product and design until we got everything as close to pixel perfect as possible. It may sound crazy, but every little detail in the app has had hours of thought put into it to ensure it all works together to make the best user experience.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Michalski: I wanted something that got the point across quick-and-easy. ‘DormChat’ does that spectacularly well.
I knew it was understandable when I ran it past even my grandmother and she had a solid grasp of what the app did.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Michalski: Finding quality people to join your team is something that I think all startups struggle with. You want to take the time to make sure you bring on the perfect teammate, but you also have a finite amount of time to do so. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve found some great guys and gals off-the-bat, but we’re always on the lookout as we begin to enter the next stage of the company.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Michalski: We have a bunch of internal milestones we want to hit before we can even begin thinking of monetization. We want to build a product people love, not like. That takes time and it’s not something we want to rush.
SUB: What are your goals for DormChat over the next year or so?
Michalski: We’re going to continue making the product better, faster and easier to use. If we can do that, we can truly change the way people communicate for the better.