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Down to Lunch app gets friends together as developers shun money

“I’m over-wired and over-tired, DTL?”

If that question makes sense, chances are you’ve already downloaded Down to Lunch. DTL is one of the hottest new social networking apps, according to the New York Times. When the Times checked, DTL was the #2 downloaded iOS app overall and #1 for iOS social networking apps (not as high in the Android world).  It’s clear why Down to Lunch is taking over with the students for which it was designed — the app is fast, easy, and hip.

The co-founders and chief developers are as much part of the story as the application. Rather than meeting with potential investors, Nikil Viswanathan and Joseph Lau, both Stanford alumni, want to spend their time interacting with users and strengthening their application infrastructure. Actually, you can text them directly from within Down to Lunch.

Down to Lunch has a single function: help friends notify and join up, mostly in-person. The app uses simple graphics to fill in the blanks in the following sentence, “I want to ____ with _____ at _____.” For each of the blanks, you choose from simple popup menus with icons and one or two-word descriptions. The application, conceived for and tested by college and high school students, is pre-filled with common activities. The first group, the “Popular” activities, are Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Chill, and Study. Other categories include Sports, Fun, Bored, and Other (Church and Get a Ride). There’s also a big plus icon labeled New. When you tap it, your phone’s message app opens ready to message your suggestion to the developers. If you receive an invite for an activity, you assent by clicking a button labeled, “I’m Down”.

When you first sign up for Down to Lunch, the application searches your email for friends on the service. You can invite people or lists. An early option let you invite your entire contact list, but when they started getting complaints about the volume of messages being sent, DTL removed it.

Between them, Viswanathan and Lau had prior experience with big name tech companies including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, and Pinterest. They’ve also tried to develop other social networking apps, but Down to Lunch is the first one to stick. Ironically, they coded DTL in one day. Right now their focus is keeping up with growth and customer communication and support.

They’ve also had to deal with the aftermath of what was apparently a destructive hate campaign, perhaps from a competitor. Claims were made accusing DTL as an app for human trafficking. The New York Times reported that the head of the human trafficking division of the Texas attorney general’s office investigated the allegations and found no evidence.

With the current communications options overload — email, text messaging, Facebook messages, and even phone calls — another connections app might seem superfluous. When, however, 15 percent of the University of Notre Dame student body downloaded it within a 12 hour period (according to Viswanathan), DTL is clearly filling a need for the simple, single-purpose app. Meeting up with friends has always been important — now it’s even easier.

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