The now famous StartupBus competition brings entrepreneurs from all over the US and Mexico to Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest conference. Teams form on the buses and work on an app for three days with very little sleep but a lot of motivation. The winners get to pitch their ideas in front of a jury including Robert Scoble and 500 Startups' Dave McClure.
This year, before the finals, one app is already making a lot of waves. Ghostpost is an anonymous and instantaneous chat, where anyone can create a chat room with a fun avatar, without having to register for an account. Simply adding a room name after the url ghostpost.io/sxsw will do the trick and you can join an existing chat automatically.
This instantaneous access makes it incredibly easy to use, and after one day the app already had 2500 users. When you get on, you automatically get attributed an avatar (hilarious, such as SnarkySpork or ArrogantCabbie), which makes the app pretty addictive. Especially since you can get a new avatar by refreshing the page, and basically say whatever you want with a bunch of strangers or friends, anonymously.
Jonathan Kresner, who worked on the app on the bus from San Francisco to Austin, explains: "we are creating a new medium of communication and bringing the fun back. People are so used to using different personas online, on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, they need to create their online identity but can't really let loose and express themselves freely. Ghostpost taps into this raw, basic need, of expressing yourself without filter, having fun and being honest."
"Reddit is a good use-case for our app, adds Alyssa Anne Reese, a member of the team. "Our funny, silly usernames make people want to say something even if they didn't plan to. We have a database that we built with a bunch of 8bits avatars, a list of adjectives, and a list of nouns. It took us a day and a half to build around 360 000 combinations of avatars and adjectives, and we're creating more as we speak. Soon, users will be able to create their own avatars and names. One proof that the site is addictive is that the average time spent on the site is 3 and a half minute, with users from 69 different countries".
The app is also aiming towards geolocation based chat rooms, where you will be able to chat with people around you in an anonymous and honest way (think of the fun that could bring to events like SXSW!). "The goal is obviously to have fun and release tension for people who want to express themselves," Alyssa adds.
Ghostpost is more powerful when it's based on a shared public experience - could be a live experience - but the team also envisions down the road, the possibility of chat rooms about diseases and other sensitive topics, for people who need to talk honestly from their mobile, without having to go through the hassle of a registration page.
The team already got fans and impressive traction simply by posting on their Twitter and on hackernews. They're on a mission today to hack the StartupBus finals at SXSW where they are not among the finalists, and they have been working on getting as many users as possible during the day. Update coming up soon to see if they succeeded!
Update: they made it to the finals, now let's see how far they can take Ghostpost!