CHICAGO — Aaron Orsini and Raf Miastkowski aren't exactly average Chicagoans — when they both left from their full-time gigs at Groupon to launch a side project together, they picked up odd jobs that ranged "from bike couriering to lumberjacking to self-publishing a book," Miastkowski said.
So it's no surprise that the guide app the duo just finished developing together focuses on finding "the quirky and the weird" in the city they love.
This week, the pair finally launched their passion project Hypelocal, a crowd-sourced app that maps Chicago destinations with off-the-beaten-path highlights, like a bar that serves whole alligators if you book a spot in advance.
Lizzie Schiffman explains the new app and how it aims to be different (and more local) than Yelp:
The app "was really born out of a necessity we found in our everyday lives," Orsini said. "We were looking for a simple way, for those moments when were out with friends and we want to figure out what's next, to have a quick solution."
They started by tracking their favorite off-the-beaten-path hotspots on a Google map, and quickly realized it was a resource others might want too.
"It's not always about eating a five-star meal," Orsini said. "It's more about having that five-star experience, and that can come from eating a free piece of beef jerky that comes with your whiskey that you weren't expecting."
The free app's features include a geo-located map of listings near the user's current location, an event calendar and a "bathroom wall" where users can post statuses, photos and reviews, and check-in at listed destinations.
After Miastkowski and Orsini loaded the app with findings from their own adventures, they reached out to hidden gem experts like the blogging teams at Chicago Gluttons and the history-focused Chicago Patterns to further expand the guide's content.
"Our goal is for users to say, 'Oh, I've lived in this neighborhood for five years and I didn't even know you could do this at the bar at the corner," Miastkowski said.
Now that it's out, the app team is gearing up to get the word out it, with a "guerilla marketing" campaign in the works for the near future that will be "something along the lines of a never ending scavenger hunt," Orsini said.