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Social media startup features ASU in its promotional video

ROVR is poised to carve out a niche in a vast social media landscape


The ROVR team poses for a group photo on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016.

While a steady stream of new social media platforms is to be expected, this being 2017 and all, seldom do original ideas find their way to the app store. 

ROVR, a platform founded by Scottsdale native Michael Young, aims to rectify that by focusing on its users' interest in activities. As seen in the company's relevant and youth-oriented promotional video, shot by Old Main among other local spots, ROVR wants its user base to get closer.

"ROVR is a one stop shop for meeting new people who share your interests," Young said. "So whether you're looking for dating or for friendship, you can find people who are looking for the same type of connection as you are, and who are interested in doing the same types of activities."

That's the sales pitch.

Young used to pursue the dream of a golf career, and only realized after pushing it to the back burner that he could still use golf as a way to meet people. In order to make sure that people who meet over the app are looking for the same things, Young and his team have divided the app into three distinct sections.

"We have casual, serious and friends," Young said. "You choose what type of relationship you're looking for, and then can meet people who share that interest."

While pursuing their quest of unambiguous social interaction, the ROVR team decided to make the Phoenix area an integral component of their project.

"We want to ensure that we're not essentially packing up our bags and moving to the Bay area," Young said. "We want to bring jobs to Arizona."

While running a social media startup out of Phoenix sets ROVR apart from much of their peers, their activity based mission is not wholly new.

"They're not the first," said Alexander Halavais, an associate professor at the ASU School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "Meetup has tried to pivot on this. Meetup started out as a way for groups to meet, but they've been attempting to pivot so that they can do something similar."

Halavais said that companies like Meetup and Foursquare have tried to jump into this niche before, but it is still an interesting one.

"Someone's going to win very big in this space," Halavais said. "But it's not clear yet who it will be."

Halavais said that small startups exploring the possibilities of activity based relationships face steep competition.

"The big players, like Facebook and Google, want to cover as many of these things as possible," Halavais said. "There's this thing called Metcalfe's Law, which says that the value of something decreases by the number of users in some cases."

Technically, the law states that the value of a telecommunications system is proportional to the square of the number of users. Halavais said that this applies strongly to social media apps. Companies that have amassed enough of a user base already, like the company formerly known as "Backrub", have a significant leg up when it comes to creating value from a new concept.

Fortunately, activity based friendship is not the only trick up ROVR's sleeve.

"One of the things that I helped develop was 'icebreakers,'" Jacqueline Falchook, ROVR's psychological consultant, said. "When people connect or match on the app, they are delivered an 'icebreaker' which is based on their activity interests that they have in common."

In this way, the app bypasses the phase of fumbling about in search of common ground.

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