Facebook is a Lame Dinner Party: Where Are The Cool Kids?

I can’t think of a worst way to spend the past weekend than deleting pictures on Facebook from 2008.

But that’s what Justin Romano, co-founder of Backspace, a new social app, did when he was job hunting as a recent graduate.

“[From] 8:00 am to 8:00 pm [I was] deleting content on a Friday,” Romano said, “Nothing is relevant. It doesn’t reflect who I am today.”

After going through the process, there was that one question lingering in his mind,

“Why isn’t there a full social network where content completely deletes by default?”

I, too feel inundated with content.

It’s so easy to take a photo. To write a note. To send a text. To create content.

In the one month I have had my iPhone (more on that later), I generated over 2,000 photos.

Two Thousand!

Granted I went to Paris Fashion Week, and I am a lifestyle blogger. But after sifting through all of those photos, I realized I don’t want to remember who I danced with on Friday night or  how long it took me to make brunch plans.

It’s not relevant.

And that’s what a new messaging app, Backspace, is aiming to do—keep content relevant.

Disappearing Content: The Power of

The tagline for Backspace is “experience social freedom.”

The concept of the social app is relevancy. And, it’s a concept that a lot of social media networks are aware of. Twitter has the “top” and “live” tabs for hashtag searches, and Instagram is about to join the game, by rearranging profile content from reverse chronological order to a new metric “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post,” reports TechCrunch. 

User Discovery:

When you join the iPhone social app, you create a profile and discover the top 10 influencers on Backspace. So, you immediately see what and who is trending.

Content Disappears Based on Popularity:

With each content you post—a photo, a video, or a quote—your content is on a clock and will automatically disappear in 24 hours.

But, there’s a catch. You can add time to your content based on the number of “likes” you receive.

The longer your content lasts, the more influence you receive. While your content disappears, your influence builds.

The longest your messages will last is a weekend.

So, you could enjoy spring break while you are on spring break, but you wouldn’t have to do damage control later by deleting your messages later.

“In 2014, 51 percent of employers have not hired someone based on content online,” said Romano, quoting a  CareerBuilder survey, “It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is.”


Meet the Co-Founders:

I felt like I met Mark Zuckerberg when I met these guys, co-founders Justin Romano and Matthew Harris.

They were passionate, they were laid back, but most importantly there were on to something.

They were cute in that they look out for each other. I scheduled a meeting with Romano after meeting him at Bloggers Meet Startups. When our meeting began, the coffee shop, Fabcakes, closed. So, we moved location to his office, the shared workspace, Industrious Chicago (320 W Ohio St #3w) , where I could see a true Chicago startup working.

Everyday, these guys are testing their messaging app, Backspace, to improve it. When I walked into their office, Harris was on his iPhone with the developer, who is working remotely from Austin, TX, fixing a bug.



He smiled, and joined our conversation. I could see the passion and dedication, but also how effortlessly they made the startup business look.

“Statistically we are going to fail,” Romano looked at me, “Everyone wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.”

The Story Behind the App: Remember AIM?

There are essentially four people building an app to change the way we create and consume content. It’s not that the Backspace team invented the wheel, they are just perfecting it.

The iPhone messaging app’s competitor is Snapchat, the mother of disappearing content, and of course Instagram and other social media apps – because where the people are is where tech goes.

Think about it, if you can’t share content with the people who you want to receive the message, then why would you share the content?

“Backspace will fill a void,” Romano said,

“AIM was the sh** but you couldn’t find anyone new. You had to type in a username exactly.”

This is similar to how Snapchat works, you have to use other social networks and social media apps to tell people who you are on Snapchat. There’s no search function within the messaging app unless you have their phone number. Most people change their profile picture to the Snapchat image. But, it’s more complicated than that, because even if they are on Snapchat, you have to type in the name exactly for it to appear.

Unless you’re Kylie Jenner, where you can just type it “kylizzle” and the rest of her name will autofill to the full “kylizzlemynizzl”, you have to remember every “z” to find the person you want to follow.

P.S. if you are looking for friends on Snapchat, these are my faves.

“Snapchat is the AIM,” said co-founder Harris, “The next step is you need disappearing content, but you need to find people.”

And that’s what the co-founders of Backspace are working on—the next step.

The Data Research to Make a Messaging App

Backspace began like most startups do, with a problem that they wanted to solve.

That problem is that things you post on the internet will last forever.

In April 2014, Romano and Harris started surveying people and a year later, in April 2015, they built the social app, Backspace.

For research, Romano looked to research firms, CareerBuilder, and universities.

Facebook is a Lame Dinner Party:

They surveyed people from ages 13-35, starting with people they knew and then attending career days and scheduling high school visits.

“They have a Facebook, but they don’t use it,” Romano recalls a recent survey at a business class at a Chicago University, “They compare it to a lame dinner party. You go there to see your family. Twitter is a noisy bar. Instagram is an over glorified part of your life.”


While Romano calls these social media platforms “household names,” he says that he waits to hear feedback about Snapchat because it is different and the majority of the people in their target market are on it.


Surprisingly, when the Backspace co-founders asked a class at Illinois State University in Bloomington, only 25 percent liked Snapchat.

Among the most negative aspects for Snapchat was the discovery and interaction aspect. You can have influence, but it’s like a secret society, unless you are invited, you don’t have access to someone’s Snapchat.

Currently, Backspace messaging app is in beta and available for download on iOS only.

The messaging app for iPhone has over a thousand users.

feature image photo credit: Blonde & Blonder via photopin (license)


Why Do You Want To Be Judged?

People were lined up at Soho House Chicago, a members-only club for professionals in creative fields, in the west loop, sixth floor. And, it wasn’t for another drink at the bar. Okay, guests had friend’s make drink runs to the bar as they held their spot in line—their spot in line to be judged.

We were there on the last Thursday in January 2016 for  a launch party for General Motors’ new car-sharing service via smartphones, Maven.

Smartphone Car-Sharing Service:

I knew 2016 was going to be different when I got off the plane at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and saw a perfectly placed advertisement for LYFT. I thought Uber was going to win with their creative campaigns and LYFT was more the Yahoo! of car-sharing services. But LYFT got a lift, a $500 million one, by partnering with General Motors, a company that is starting to break into a different part of the car industry—car-sharing.

On top of partnering with LYFT, General Motors has invested in its own car service, Maven. It originally launched in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the target market included university students, but for the first quarter in 2016, General Motors has rolled out its Maven car-sharing city programs, starting with Chicago. A smart move granted The 2016 Chicago Auto Show is February 13-21, 2016.

Stepping up the car-sharing game, Maven works through an app and includes a seamless experience with OnStar and Apple CarPlay integration.

Meet The Bumbys:

As we mixed and mingled at General Motors’ Maven launch party, I met a group of girls in their early 20s.

“Have you heard of The Bumbys?” one girl asked.

I looked forward and, for the first time in the hour I was at the Maven launch party, I noticed them—The Bumbys.



The Bumbys at the General Motors’ Maven car-sharing service launch party. Photo Credit: Amanda Elliott

Infamously called The Bumbys, the boy, and girl pair remain anonymous with blonde wigs, long sleeves, and a handkerchief over their face. They sat behind a long table with their typewriters in which they typed a fair and honest review of you simply by your looks and your body language.

Social Experiment: Do People Want to Be Judged?

Whenever I pick out my outfits (besides during winter) I dress partially for myself and partially for other people.

You want to fit into the environment.

Especially when you go to a party, you want to dress approachable, friendly, and perhaps trendy/stylish.

“Lena Dunham: ‘When You Turn 30, It No Longer Sounds Insane That You Might Be a Mom'” Article. Photo Credit: Refinery29

In an interview with Refinery 29, Lena Dunham was asked about her public perception and how she feels about it.

“I used to spend a lot more time than I do now trying to understand why people didn’t like me. I remember just sitting around in my early 20s and being like, ‘Why is that girl always mean to me at a party?’ And then I just realized that it doesn’t matter,” Dunham said.

The fact is as much as we don’t care what people think, we actually do.

Waiting in the line, with a guy getting me a drink at one bar and my new friend grabbing me a beer at the other, it was apparent that people were eager to be judged—to hear what others thought of them.

We all want to be connected to other people. We might not be interested in making the best impression every minute of every day, but I think overall, we care what our personal appearance says about us before we have time to say something.

The Bumbys didn’t start judging people at parties, they started judging them at a public transportation stop in New York City. The Bumbys really started as a social experiment in 2008 and now they are booked for parties, with one of the original Bumbys at each event.

A Fair and Honest Review:

The key difference with The Bumbys is that their reviews are meant to point out the good things in people, and not the negative.

So, maybe it’s not that we want to be judged, but that we want to be complimented?

My Review From The Bumbys:

It was a little bit past 10:00 pm, when the party ended, and I was next in line.

I was anxious because I really wanted to know what Mr. Bumby thought of me.

I asked the person reading her review if I could read it. She wanted to keep it private.

It was my turn, and I stood in front of Mr. Bumby, my drink barely full in hand. The guy next to me shares with me his review, and I tilt to the side as I read it and smile.

I look at Mr. Bumby and smile, knowing I am being judged. The girls behind me grab my attention as we make plans to follow-up with fellow marketers like Antonio Casanova from Starcom Mediavest Group.

Mr. Bumby just finished my review and he reads it to himself, looking for any mistakes, which he would cross out with a permanent maker. Mr. Bumby made no mistakes during my review.

I took in the first line and headed towards the bar. My face lit up by the last line, “I kind of love. you.”

A review from The Bumbys at The Maven launch party January 2016.

A review from The Bumbys at The Maven launch party January 2016. Photo Credit: Amanda Elliott

Your Bumbys Score:

“You got a 9.9!” the guy who was in front of me shouted as he read my review. He attributed my high score to the fact that a guy, Mr. Bumby gave me the review.

The three other girls I was with all received 9.8’s.

In an article in The New York Times, The Bumbys note that they rate people at an 8 or higher out of 10.

“I don’t ever want this to be a mean, hurtful thing. I’m not interested in tearing someone down. Where’s the art in that?” Mr. Bumby told The New York Times.

Overall Experience with The Bumbys:

Maybe it was the drinks, maybe it was The Bumbys, but by the end of the night, review in hand, the party turned from individual VIP sections to a lively dance floor. No one wanted to know you, they wanted to know what other’s thought of you.

This was better than a photo booth at a party—though, photo booths are still fun.

Everyone at the Maven launch party wanted to know how cool, funny or popular they appeared to be, and they didn’t mind if it was an inconspicuous average Joe who was judging them.



Host a Better Conference with Dovetail Event App

The panelist didn’t show up. Nobody heard your question. And that party was a buzz kill.

Events are hard to plan and harder to execute.

We know people come to conferences to learn industry news, make business deals, and yes, have fun. But even if you have the party, bring the industry experts, and create conference rooms and conference party mixers, will the mantra, if you build it they will come, stand true?

Event Marketing Specialist, Gabriela Xavier:


Garbriela Xavier, Dovetail. Photo: Dovetail

I sat down with Gabriela Xavier, Product Marketing Manager of Chicago company, Dovetail, a product of CDM SoMo, a subsidiary of CDM Media Inc.

Xavier has been with CDM Media Inc., a leading B2B technology marketing and media firm, producing C-level executive events globally, since 2010, when she started as an event and online marketing specialist.

This past spring, Dovetail launched their own internal event app, which they built from scratch,  for the several events that they host through CDM Media Inc.

Xavier drew upon her event marketing knowledge and shared how her team built an iOS app to change the way Dovetail, and hopefully others will execute conferences.

Dovetail App

Dovetail, is an app built by and for CDM Media’s events, which are conferences with executive level IT managers locally in Chicago and also internationally. Prior to developing their own internal app, they relied on a third party, but felt they had limited functionality in terms of social media integration among other things.

There is nothing new about event apps. Companies have made the switch from paper to smartphone, including at events, but event apps are becoming more powerful tools.

The main benefit of having an event app is that it places the conference on a digital level. Attendees can access the entire agenda and be notified of events and room changes instantly. No more paper.

dove 2

An App That Facilitates Connections at Events:

For each event, attendees sign into the portal for their event-specific portion of the app. Their profile, which includes a photo, company description and logo, and personal bio, allows for attendees to get acquainted on a deeper level.

As attendees become acquainted with fellow attendees, they are able to reach out to the through the app. It’s like finding out whose in your class before your first day of school.

Attendees typically sign into the app about a week before the conference.

Talking Points and Q&A:

The app also helps event planners curate content specifically tailored to attendees through the use of white papers and case studies that attendees can access in the app. How users interact with these resources might effect presenter’s presentations or alter subject matter in the conference.

The app also helps to facilitate questions during a presentation. Attendees can submit their questions to the presenter throughout the session, and, even better, if you missed the session, you can view questions and answers from the session. No more fear of missing out.


Attendee Feedback:

Another key feature that Xavier was excited about it that, as an event organizer, she doesn’t have to wait until the end of the conference to receive user feedback.

Attendees can give feedback after sessions and throughout the conference. This makes a huge difference and will help event organizers address issues while they still can, rather than doing better next time.

Event App Features:

  • View the full event agenda and your personal itinerary
  •  Read attendee biographies and company information
  •  Access white papers, case studies, and presentations that correspond to agenda sessions
  • Receive event updates as they happen
  •  Send messages to other event attendees
  •  Read a scrolling Twitter feed with the latest event information
  •  Share event updates across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and  Instagram directly from the app.
  •  Access detailed venue maps.

Other Companies Can Use the Dovetail App:

The Dovetail app is currently in a transitional stage. It was built from the knowledge of event planners for CDM Media Inc. and from feedback from the previous app.

“The app can be customized to any events,” said Xavier, “It’s a blank canvas.”

The app is exclusively offered at the Apple Store. Dovetail found that their event attendees are primarily Apple product users. Though, Xavier noted that there are still some who have a Blackberry and a few who have Android phones. During conferences, these users are given an iPad to access the app for the duration of the conference.

Dovetail plans to offer the app for it’s clients’ companies to use and then market it to other companies to help event planners better manage their events and conference goers have a more personal and digital experience.

Learn From Industry Experts:

For more exclusive interviews from entrepreneurs and industry experts in Chicago, as well as events to meet them, subscribe to Windy City Cosmo and follow on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

If you are an entrepreneur or industry expert and would like to be featured on Windy City Cosmo, please contact me.




How One Woman Changed Her Career with a Chicago Dev Bootcamp

I don’t like what I’m doing.

Have you had that thought?

Have you repeatedly had that thought?

I recently met someone who had that thought, took one course, and is now building an app in Chicago.

I stare at my list of all the certifications and coursework I think I need to do to have a successful career.

I took a sip of coffee, and listened to her story—her story of how making ONE change started a new career for her.

Mobile Makers iOS Software Developer Bootcamp:

Katie Schneider, iOS developer at Cliq App. Photo: Cliq App

Katie Schneider, iOS developer at Cliq App. Photo: Cliq App

Katie Schneider, front-end iOS developer at Cliq App, is a Millennial. She went to the University of Washington in Seattle for entrepreneurship, a program that allowed her to take one computer course. She quickly noticed the importance of technical knowledge.

“Entrepreneurship is synonymous with the tech world,” Schneider said, “I couldn’t have a technical conversation.”

She decided to do something about it and signed-up for an eight-week iOS software developer bootcamp at Mobile Makers in Chicago this year.

While Schneider admits, “In eight weeks you can’t expect bootcamp to turn you into an amazing developer,”  it does open opportunities.

During her graduation, she met the founders of Cliq App, a Chicago-based startup that provides an app to connect two friend groups platonically in the city.  The founder of Moblie Makers, Don Bora, who knew the founders of Cliq App created an opportunity for a graduating coding student at Mobile Makers to join a senior developer from Eight Bit Studios, a nearby workspace that Bora also founded for software developers and graphic designers. The senior developer would help the graduate build the iOS version of Cliq App.

Schneider took the job in March 2015.

“They (Cliq App) were totally on board with helping me grow,” Schneider said.

After a few months of working as a front-end iOS software developer alongside Cliq App Senior Developer, Javier Otero remotely at Eight Bit Studios, Schneider joined the team at their Cliq App Chicago office.

Cliq App: Groups of Friends Meeting New Groups of Friends:

Cliq App is an app that makes it easy for you to expand your friend group.

“When we look back at our experiences, we were with our friends,” Schneider explains that the Cliq App team helps you to find people that you want to create those experiences with.

“We [Cliq App] are trying to break new barriers of meeting people.”

Chicago-based fashion blogger, Gold Coast Girl and other Chicago blogger, Pepperminting, have recently downloaded Cliq App. Check out their blog posts for suggestions of where to go with your friends to meet new friends through the Cliq App.

Through the Cliq App, you can choose to meet up with another group of girls or a group of guys. Your group or “cliq” as it’s called on the Cliq App can be as small as two people.

Schneider and I have yet to use the app, but I’ll let you know all the details when I do.

I told Schneider the Cliq App felt like I was Cady in Mean Girls, and I was trying to find the right group of people to have lunch with. It’s a little bit less intimidating through the Cliq App because you are not alone. You still have your group of friends. But, it’s nice to spice things up and meet new people together.

Phone Pending Invite for Cliq App: Photo: Cliq App

Phone Pending Invite for Cliq App: Photo: Cliq App

Learning to Code:

“Objective-C is a pretty approachable language,” Schneider told me. “It’s not super difficult. I say that and then some days I am like, ‘why am I doing this. It is totally over my head.'”

The fact is that when you learn, it’s hard. Think about how many years you learn English grammar in middle school and high school, and then you find yourself still questioning comma placement and if Millennial has one “n” or two.

Schneider notes that the hardest part of learning is, in fact, learning.

“[I was] super aware that it takes me a longer time (than a senior developer).”

As a front-end developer, Schneider formatted the UI layout that the graphic designer worked on for Cliq App’s first version.

She also integrated Cliq App, which users log in with their Facebook profile.

Other features, like the calendar of events, are pulled from the back-end, which back-end software developer for Cliq App, Jonah Ellman, works on.

Learn How to Code: Chicago Software Developer Bootcamps:

There are many reasons to take a dev bootcamp. You may be just like Schneider and want to speak the same language as entrepreneurs and software developers. Dev bootcamps can also help you change your career for 2016 or make it easier to do your current job.

Crain’s Chicago published an article, “Should you enroll in a coding bootcamp?”  in the spring of 2015. If you have reservations about software developer bootcamps, the informative article draws upon  industry professionals including a Chicago web developer recruiter.

 “It’s such an area of demand right now that we’re finding our clients just want to see (a candidate’s) work—the portfolio and thought process—and they’re less interested in a traditional degree,” says Rosemary Walker, manager of the Chicago office of Creative Circle in an article for Crain’s Chicago, a recruiter that places Web designers and developers.

Below is a list of a few programs that can help you get your technical start in Chicago:

GA Assembly – take full-time courses for Android development, user experience design, or web development. Part-time courses are also available.

1871 – Anyone Can Learn to Code – a coding program to prepare you for entry-level web development

Mobile Makers – iOS software developer bootcamp

Girl Develop It – meet up with software developers for a low-cost way to learn about website development and coding

Do Something Different Tonight: Cliq App

The Cliq App is a new social app. Do something different tonight with your group of friends by meeting a new group of friends.

Download the Cliq App on the App Store, which is the version that Schneider helped create, or download the Cliq App on Google Play, which was outsourced, for free.