The Hotlist is a location-based social event discovery app for the web and iPhone which allows users to find every public Facebook event happening nearby or anywhere in the world. Users can view events occurring in a given area laid over a Google map and in a list sorted by friends attending and total attendance. Instead of focusing on checkins to your current location like Places and other location services, or showing what your friends have done in the past like review sites, The Hotlist helps you plan your next social excursion.
The Manhattan-headquartered company was founded by NYU students Chris Mirabile and Gianna Martire in 2008. It won the NYU Stern Business Plan Competition and now operates out of the NYU Poly Incubator. The seven person team, including four developers, raised $800,000 from Centurion Holdings and launched a private beta in November of 2009. Since opening to the public, The Hotlist has gained 200,000 active users, predominantly 20-30 year olds in US metropolitan areas. It now indexes 2.95 million upcoming events, over 1 million venues, and the plans of over 50 million Facebook users. The company is working on growing its audience and improving its user experience, but does not yet have a revenue model.
Users must have a Facebook account to use The Hotlist, as login is entirely powered by Facebook Connect. Once logged in, users see a map of their neighborhood covered in flame icons denoting Facebook events happening that day. Users can click the icons or the listings in the right sidebar to see a venue’s name and address, number of friends and total people attending, and the guy-to-girl ratio. The sidebar also displays profile pictures of those attending, and buttons which allow users to RSVP on Facebook. Zooming out on the map lets users browse the most popular events in the whole city, state or world.
From The Hotlist’s homepage users can create and post plans to Facebook which don’t have an associated Facebook event. Users can also search for events or venues, use the multi-friend selector to send invites to the The Hotlist, access a list of their favorite venues, or view a customized personal calendar of events at those venues.
Clicking through to a venue’s page shows Yelp reviews and Twitter updates about the venue, and all the upcoming Facebook events taking place there. Event pages show the event description, time, location, host, and attendees pulled from from Facebook.
The typical use case see users checking out the page of events and venues in their area in the next few days, looking to discover popular ones with interesting entertainment and friends attending. So far, The Hotlist hasn’t heard of any privacy issues from users intruding on intimate gatherings that happened to be posted as public Facebook events. The Hotlists’s privacy settings are synced with one’s Facebook settings, helping avoid it being singled out for privacy concerns. Meanwhile, venues from restaurants and nightclubs to museums are gaining foot traffic from the app, and are eager to pay for increased presence, the company said.
Next, The Hotlist is looking to close the gap in functionality between the full featured web app, and the iPhone app where users can’t RSVP or view events ahead of the current date. The team will soon release Android and Blackberry versions as well. It is also working on pulling in Places checkins as well as being able to push data to Facebook’s location service, and is considering how to use Like buttons to increase virality.
Cofounder Miribile thinks that the location service market is maturing rapidly, but that The Hotlist is differentiated. “We’re more aligned with the direction Facebook has taken, focusing on simplicity and utility value, opposed to the novel entertainment factors like badges offered by other services.” And while it seems like a power user’s take on Facebook events would be an experience lots of companies would try to provide, Mirabile explains, “the way that we are able to take Facebook events and represent them is a difficult process, a very long term project we had to embark on before we could launch the product.”
Overall, The Hotlist is a great way to learn about the social gatherings going on nearby. Those having moved to a new city or looking to fill holes in their social calendar can use the app to discover things to do, and those already out on the town can find out if there’s a better party just down the street. By combining its existing features with better search and recommendation engines, The Hotlist could become the essential tool for determining your social future.