For three roommates at the University of Texas, the best parts of college were not always planned events, but more spontaneous ones. To pass these kinds of memories on to other students, they created Ping Social, an app designed to bring friends together in an easier way than Facebook or group messaging.
Co-founders Will Ko and Winston Tri, both seniors with technical backgrounds, are the brains behind the coding for the iOS application, while Highland Park High School graduate Wes Cole serves as Ping’s marketing director.
“Our fondest experiences were the spontaneous road trips or late-night doughnut runs, so those things we wanted to make more accessible to UT students,” Cole said. “We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to spend time with the people they care about.”
[pullquote-left]“When we say spend time with your friends, we don’t mean looking through profiles or looking through pictures that have already happened.”[/pullquote-left]
Ping Social allows users to create a social event, or a Ping, specify the time and location, and invite people from their friends list. Events range from coffee runs to pickup soccer games and can be public to friends or private for those invited. The app had its soft launch in mid-April and now boasts 1,600 users creating 20-30 Pings a day.
This summer, the app’s eight-person team is fixing bugs and generating buzz for a hard launch in the fall, when it hopes to expand its user base. While Cole reaches out to college friends across the country to become Ping ambassadors, Ko and Tri are adding features to hide unwanted Pings and create custom friend groups.
As members of the millennial generation, the Ping team is aware that people already have texting, Facebook, Twitter, and more to socialize. However, they believe that Ping solves important problems within these popular apps.
“When we say spend time with your friends, we don’t mean looking through profiles or looking through pictures that have already happened,” Cole said. “Ping Social is about planning ways to spend time with people you love doing things that you love.”
The friends also found that, for planning activities with friends, messy group texts make it hard to confirm details, while formal Facebook events are filled with unnecessary posts. Ping, they say, forces users to be proactive in making a plan that is easy for friends to follow.
“Ping is right in the middle in that it caters to local and spontaneous events that are more casual but can also scale up to big events and be personal at the same time,” Ko said.
Ping Social began with three months of Ko and Tri coding for 12 hours a day. Two extremely reversed sleep cycles, 100 cans of Red Bull, and one resulting stomach ulcer later, the Ping team now works from the Capital Factory technology incubator in downtown Austin.
The app will remain U.S.-based for now, but with connections in cities such as Hong Kong and Beijing, the team plans to expand on an even broader scale.
“Our focus is on getting a small group of people to really love the application and then moving out that way,” Ko said. “We’re definitely looking to go international; we want people to know that we are looking ahead.”