On a cold Sunday night in November, I pick Heaps CEO Niels Hangaard up in a bar in Palo Alto, CA. He has attended the introduction meeting for the 12th edition of SCALEit and is super determined on making the best of the program. That is, especially to scout for possible investors for a large expansion. His app, Heaps, is the leading player in its field. In fact, Heaps is the product that defines the market.
Niels Hangaard and I are old friends from high school. As we catch up after years of not seeing each other, Niels starts to explain what Heaps really is. It is not a dating app nor a Yelp for parties. In its simple setup, it lets users (e.g. a group of friends from school) take their social media profiles and merge them into friend groups in the app. Different friend groups can then connect through the same swiping system as is currently seen in apps such as Tinder. Once two groups match, they can chat and arrange to meet each other for socialization over drinks, a party or whatever they feel like.
Niels points out that the storyline of Heaps is such that it takes the awkwardness out of meeting someone in real life that you have acquainted online. Reason? You bring your friends to the meeting and you have an activity planned. As such, it is a more natural way of getting introduced to new friends.
And it works.
Since its launch in October 2014 in Copenhagen, Heaps has gained heavy traction in Denmark which peaked around New Year’s eve as the #1 app in the App Store. The success subsequently led Niels and his 5 co-founders to quit their jobs and studies to bet it all on an expansion into the US. Destination: Los Angeles.
There is no doubt that Niels has his eyes on the prize, and so does the rest of the Heaps team. The team is delicately put together to cover front- and backend app development, design, communications etc. A part of the job of launching a party app is furthermore to engage with the market and indulge the Heaps team into the pool of users. This means that the team lives the Heaps life by arranging and going to parties that can be covered by the app.
The Heaps app launched in LA this November. The team’s focus at the moment is to analyze their users’ feedback and create the best possible product. It might sound like a task that can be solved by simple methodology – however, figuring out how to support people’s behavioral patterns in the best ways is never simple. Especially not when your total user experience combines that of a digital and a real-life. Niels explains that they will work towards tailoring the product to the American market and building traction in the US. Once Los Angeles is closed down and the growth model is ready, they will push the app to all of the US.
It’s about timing resources right.
At the end of the SCALEit week, I adjourn with Niels to catch up on his SCALEit experience. He received tons of feedback on Heaps and started building network in San Francisco that might help him expand his business up along the West Coast. In the foreseeable future, Heaps will raise another round of funding and – if the product gets bullet proof – attempt the big take-over of the US market. Social networks like Heaps have been seen in the past to go viral, and being first-mover in their space between event planning, dating and nightlife, so this could as well be the case for Niels & Co. if the stars are aligned.
While being dead serious about Heaps and its plans in the future, Niels still smiles and laughs every time he points out what a cliché it is that six young guys move into LA with a party business.