Just a few weeks after beginning their jobs as tennis pros at L’Hirondelle Club, Tyler Kelly and Michael Cianos had begun to hatch a plan that would eventually lead to the launch of Happinin!, a mobile nightlife app set to launch at the end of this month.
As Kelly recalls, Cianos threw a challenge, “Let’s start a business.”
The two adopted a model Cianos had seen work at UC Santa Barbara for a pick-up and drop-off laundry service for college kids. Taking advantage of the opportunity in a city full of colleges, Kelly and Cianos founded their first company B’more Clean, a laundry, dry cleaning, and summer storage service for Baltimore area college students.
In a short time, the business grew to over 200 customers. The experience of developing and implementing a business model sowed the seeds for a lasting partnership between Kelly and Cianos, and sowed the seeds for another new idea specific to their hometown.
The two sold B’more Clean and began planning for Happinin!, an app designed to offer a nine second video vignette of Baltimore’s nightlife scene. Supported by real-time text reviews, Happinin! offers its users the opportunity to optimize their night – whether choosing a destination, calling an audible on their initial choice, or simply living vicariously through real-time clips. The entire site is user generated and user uploaded, creating an authenticity of experience and a more vital window.
Kelly traces his entrepreneurial roots in Baltimore to his grandfather who ran Stieff Silver. As the oldest of three boys, Kelly attended Jemicy and McDonogh Schools before heading to the University of Delaware to play lacrosse. Early in his first semester in college, however, he recognized his true love, tennis, and decided to leave school to pursue a professional tennis career.
For six years, Kelly traveled and competed in Florida, South America and Europe. The experience informed his career choices, he says, and inspired his latest endeavor.
Traversing Europe, he “trimmed his entrepreneurial spirit” and sought out the vibrant nightlife scene.
He attributes the comingling of these experiences to his own life in which he often took “the road less traveled,” opting for a more circuitous route, even eschewing a job in finance like his father’s.
Trips to South Florida and Europe drew him to the nightlife scene and seemed a fitting model for this next career path. His experiences with B’more Clean, however, made him reluctant to subject businesses to the traditional online review sites like Yelp and Four Square. With strictly written content, he learned, there seemed no way to avoid a one-time negative review. Furthermore, nightlife itself is a transient experience that seemed to demand real-time feedback. His misgivings led him to devise a business model that provides a two-way conversation between the business and its clients, using written content in tandem with live stream video.
To take the idea from concept to reality, Kelly also called upon Kyle Eddins, a friend he had met in Tampa on the tennis circuit. Eddins’s background in programming and building apps made him a natural fit for the team and the third partner in Happinin! For Eddins, the clean and intuitive nature of the app makes it a “catalyst for something we hope will turn into something much more comprehensive and engaging.”
(The Happinin! app will be available for download in stores next week, but you can view the Happinin! website here.)
Kelly and Cianos are eager to test the app in Baltimore. Cianos sees his hometown as a natural fit in a region brimming with start-ups. In fact, he suggests, “There seemed to be nowhere better than Baltimore to release our first version of Happinin! The nightlife scene is present, but not overwhelming; it’s a big city with a small city feel, allowing word-of-mouth to travel quickly; and there is a huge number of college kids packed into a small area.”
It is on this demographic that Kelly has relied, both to test the app and to upload video clips. The app itself is very user friendly, with a sign-in similar to Facebook, and offering a choice of specific venues or neighborhoods. The app is constantly recalibrated and nightly content is deleted when the bars close. Kelly reasons the daily updates promise both real-time content and acknowledges the changing nature of nightlife: what is dead on a Friday may be pulsing on a Saturday.
The Happinin! model captures what Kelly recognizes as the value of technology to take an idea to the masses in a fast and effective way. For Kelly, the idea drew him to his latest endeavor and proved that “anyone can be an entrepreneur. “ Technology helps break down those barriers.