Interview With Interact App Founder Anthony Coombs

Anthony is not only an occasional quizzo player, he is also a computer geek (imagine that, a computer geek who enjoys quizzo!) For the past couple of years he has been working on a new app called Interact, which encourages people to become friends with other people they share things in common with, and he just released it last week.

Interact finds things you enjoy on facebook and then matches them with other people in your immediate area who are on facebook. For example, just today I found a guy I know from doing my podcast at Comcast on Interact. I see him around when I go into Comcast, but never got his last name and despite occasional small talk, never knew we had so much in common. Now, after friending him on facebook thanks to interact, when I go into work next time, we’ll discuss our mutual love for Tribe Called Quest. So it’s a very cool, and very useful app. I interview Anthony about what got him interested in it, what it does, and what he hopes it will do. In the meantime, download his app. It’s free, and it’s very cool.

JGT: What is your background in computers and apps?

Anthony: I’ve always been into technology. I’ve loved computers since playing Oregon Trail on the Apple IIe in school. I used to tinker in building them but I was always more interested in the software side. I was a Sociology major at Penn. So building a location based social network is completely down my alley.

JGT: When did you decide to put this app together, and what was the inspiration for it?

Anthony: Well, the idea had been brewing since late 2010 when I began to see where location based services were going. We had Gowalla, Foursquare, and Facebook Places around then using GPS to connect you to friends. Well, the next logical step would be to connecting you with people you don’t know but should. And I was right. 2011 saw the release on Banjo and Sonar, people discovery apps built on top of Foursquare and Twitter that show you people around you. But it wasn’t until 2012 that we saw the explosion of these apps all seemingly at once with SXSW. We had originally intended to be there but wanted to make sure the product was ready before even releasing into Open Beta.

JGT: So what exactly does this app do?

Anthony: Interact visualizes your connections within a given proximity. A few other apps do the same, but what we do differently is that we give people reasons to connect. We also have a completely open network which is completely customizable by the user so if you aren’t comfortable with sharing some information you can keep that info from showing up to other people. As far as giving people reasons to connect you can select whether you are using interact to meet someone professionally, socially, or even for dating purposes.

We did this by mimicking how people interact in the real world. Having had a background in how people interact I find it fascinating to see real world communication, especially with people who don’t know one another. For example, I was sitting in Rittenhouse Square one day and after observing maybe 500 people walk past each other without even someone saying hello, two strangers struck up a conversation. What was it about? They both owned the same type of dog. People need reasons to meet. We don’t just meet in a vacuum, but if we knew what those reasons and intentions were beforehand it would serve as an icebreaker to meeting some very cool people.

JGT: What is the ultimate goal for this app?

Anthony: We want people to use the app, reach out, say hello to someone new. Once you see the layout it’s very easy to recognize who you would most likely want to meet. If we can create something that is the go to app when people are sitting around at a coffee shop, in an airport, at a bar, wherever then we’ve done something very cool.

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