Atlanta is the seventh most visited city in the United States with a twelve billion dollar hospitality industry. Whether you’re a local ATLien or just visiting for the weekend, deciding on dinner alone can be taxing. Between Eventbrite, Meetup, and Eventful (to name a few), we now have options to choose the next great spot in town. The caveat – we spend more time in front of the computer finding the perfect place than we actually do at the event. To keep us from embarking on a quest even Zelda would give up on, two former Turner co-workers founded Bonfire, the latest and greatest in event apps. We got the full scoop from the co-founders, and what we heard was music to our ears.
Co-Founders, Joel Middendorf and Matthew Hagen, are the dynamic duo behind Bonfire, the event app that just released a major update yesterday. Not only does Middendorf have a long history developing apps, he’s an Emmy award-honored software developer to boot! Paired with Hagen, a self described “computer geek” with a PHD in Bioinformatics from GA Tech, this powerhouse is too legit to quit. As Hagen explains, “most of our competitors have teams of up to 40 people or more – the two of us coded our asses off and created an app that has more accurate content and a better design than any of our competitors.”
“Currently, people spend too much time searching individual venue sites, artist’s websites, local newspapers and event sites browsing for things to do. There has never been a fast and accurate place to search for exactly what you want to do – until now. Bonfire is a triple threat: user-friendly, accurate event labeling, and beautifully designed. “Most event apps show you everything happening in your city, with no effective way to personalize your interests.” In a word: overwhelming. “With Bonfire you can see only those events in the categories that interest you. And you can customize your favorites when you are on the go and check out what’s happening in the places you frequent.”
The icing on the cake? The app promotes local businesses who may not have a huge social media presence but want to tell the world about their weekly specials. Plus Bonfire has heart. The app also gives nonprofits a place to share their upcoming fundraising events, without the financial burden of advertising costs. “One thing we want to stress is that Bonfire isn’t just a party app. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got all the DJ’s, clubs, drink specials, and festivals, but we also have places to take your kids, lectures, sports, and charity events. We want to be known as the start-up that gives back.”
“The secret is in our computer algorithm which we wrote from scratch. It can automatically predict the category of events, without any manual intervention. Since we have over 1 million events in our database, it would take far too long to label all of these with the right category manually. And asking users to do it themselves leads to incorrect labeling and duplications. Other competitors don’t have a great algorithm which is why when you click on food you get an open mic hip hop contest. Another cool Bonfire feature is the live Instagram feed from all the venues and concerts, so if you’re in an unfamiliar city, you can check out the scene and know if it’s something that interests you.”
The idea for Bonfire sparked when Middendorf visited Hagen in Palo Alto, CA. The Bay area startup scene was buzzing and as Hagen describes, “we started looking into a bunch of Silicon Valley startups and found that most were only giving people better ways to waste their time and indulge. We wanted to create something that used technology to make life more fulfilling. We wanted a fast and simple solution to the age old question of: what should we do this weekend? One that didn’t require us to spend more time in front of the computer. So we built Bonfire. I used my expertise in data analysis to read and label all the events happening in different cities, and Joel used his incredible computer graphics abilities. We are interested in saving our customers time so they can go out and have fun – and do so by only using one app. Fire up your social life and try out Bonfire today!”
Hagen and Middendorf are fired up about Atlanta’s startup scene. “We have really grown to love local startups. There is a really great talent pool within the GA Tech, GA State and UGA student community. We also have desk space at the Atlanta Tech Village and attend as many startup events as we can. Atlanta is growing in the tech arena and it’s really exciting to watch.”
Bonfire is currently looking for an angel investor or VC who believes in who they are and what they’ve created.