Houseparty director talks new app

Danielle Drake-Flam | Contributing Reporter

Kimberly Kalb, the director of growth for Houseparty, a new app that allows users to easily move between group conversations, spoke about the app, the motivation behind it and how her team has risen to where they are now in the technological world Monday, Dec. 6.

Kalb, who was hosted by TAMID, a nonprofit organization that develops the professional skills of undergraduate students through hands-on interaction with the Israeli economy, was hired by the Life on Air startup that created Houseparty.

Kalb began the event by discussing the important pull that social media has on our everyday lives. She spoke about the accomplishments other apps—such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram—have achieved and the reasons for why each product, designed with different social purposes in mind, has been successful.

“All media that you guys interact with today is social. And everything that you are seeing out there—all the stories that are at the top of every single Buzzfeed Snap Discover story—that’s all dictated by social choice,” Kalb said, “We really feel you guys are in a world where there is so much that’s not authentic, so much about what you are presenting to the world isn’t just you, that you need a place to just be yourself on video.”

Houseparty launched Feb. 29 and was designed by Kalb and her team to allow for group video chat conversations. Kalb’s team brainstormed the idea while working on another company project called Meerkat, which never launched.

“Meerkat was broadcasting yourself to the world—that wasn’t what you wanted. You wanted something where you interact with your friends,” Kalb said, “We were like, ‘We are missing the element of when you’re at a house party.’ We were trying to capture that feeling in an app, and so when we first built it we just shared it within the team, and we all loved using it. We realized we were onto something maybe pretty special.”

Kalb discussed the difference between her generation of millennials and the students in the room. She explained that teenage girls are generally most active on social media and thus serve as the biggest indicator of the success of a product.

“You guys are called the ‘we’ generation because you guys grew up in a world where you had all the information at the palm of your hands. No matter what you cared about, from day one, you could use the internet, and you could find out everything about it, so you knew about all of the good and bad that was happening in the world, and you guys have tried to change it,” Kalb said.

During the question and answer part of her presentation, students asked Kalb for advice about technology startups as well as further questioned the design process of Houseparty.

“If you are going to start something that you think is real, be ready,” Kalb advised, referring to a three-week period last May where the Houseparty app stopped working due to overuse.

One Tamid member, sophomore Zaria Noble, noted her positive experience at the event.

“I thought it was a really interesting presentation. She really had a lot of interesting things to say about the startup community in Israel, and, in general, what startups are looking for,” Noble said.

The timing of Kalb’s visit also fell in line with the app’s rise in popularity on Washington University’s campus, Danielle Weisfeld, junior and the vice president of marketing for TAMID, said.

“I think it came at the perfect time because it’s what everyone is talking about on campus now, and I keep seeing uploads of people Housepartying on Facebook and everywhere,” Weisfeld said. “It’s a really unique opportunity to hear about an app that’s in the beginning phase of its success—they are really making it—so I think that that’s not something you get to experience everyday.”