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Greenpoint startup wants to be Facebook with will-call

Time to shine: From left, Sajid Zaman, Boris Brenman, and Abir Ashukur say the social-media site they are set to launch in mid-November will be the future of planning a night out.
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The next Facebook is about to launch in Greenpoint.

That is what the founders of the social-media site Wrevel hope, anyway. The platform, which the startup’s team describes as a cross between Facebook and Eventbrite, is supposed to help users find things to do by connecting them with people who have similar interests. The project was nearly ready to go months ago, but its designers decided to rebuild the system’s architecture from the ground up. Getting it right was more important than getting it done quickly, according to the company’s head.

“The thing about being a startup is that you learn as you go,” said Sajid Zaman. “We decided to scrap the whole system and start over again. We wanted to restructure so we could add features that we wanted to add.”

The founders of Wrevel saw an opening between standard social networking sites and online ticket-selling services, figuring that a big part of what people are looking for when they are scrolling through their Facebook feed is find things to do and people to hang out with. Wrevel is supposed to connect people with similar interests and allow them to buy tickets on the site, rather than having to wade into Google search results trying to find that punk show somebody mentioned. To those who say no one can get a toehold in the social-media realm dominated by Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild Zaman says that Wrevel fills a similar but separate need.

“We’re not competing with Facebook,” he said. “We’re trying to implement a social experience in the ticketing and event world.”

Wrevel also lets users who are planning to attend events talk to each other beforehand, and allows for privacy settings that can hide the address of an event until the poster approves the attendee, opening the platform up for use by people hosting, say, a low-key poetry reading at their apartment, or a limited-head-count walking tour.

Some of the features that the Wrevel team went back to the drawing board for include helping users narrow down what they want to do. The “Icebreaker” section is supposed to connect people that have not met but are, for example, looking for a professional peer to grab a drink with on a given night. “Hotspots” announce last-minute events such as street performances. And a “Culture” section lets people peruse happenings by category to find something outside their social sphere.

“We wanted to give people the opportunity to explore the city, and not just the generic tourist attractions,” Zaman said.

Funding so far has come solely from the founders, but they hope to start approaching investors once the site launches in mid-November. They claim to already have 4,000 users testing the beta version.

Wrevel is supposed to generate profits by charging ticket buyers a fee. This differs from the typical model of charging event organizers, Zaman said. Free events are supposed to be free to post. Wrevel is also set to offer promoted-event functionality, where organizers pay to get better exposure within the network. And, in an embrace of at least one aspect of the Facebook model, company honchos expect to sell targeted ads eventually.

Right now Wrevel’s 15 staffers occupy a floor of a shared-office-space building on West Street.

Zaman said it is encouraging to be surrounded by dozens of small companies, and to see all the real estate development happening in the neighborhood.

“It’s very motivating to see people come in every day and work on their projects,” he said. “Greenpoint is very up-and-coming. It’s getting big.”

Techno Files

The 11th annual Cyber Security Awareness Week is being held at New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering from Nov. 13–15. The event is supposed to teach budding engineers about the importance of security to the next generation of software. The conference is slated to include lectures, competitions, and hacker games including a cyber-security version of Capture the Flag.

•••

Dumbo’s resident craft giant Etsy unveiled a new system that allows vendors to take payments in person this week. With the help of a card-reading dongle not unlike Google’s Square, Etsy store owners can now process credit and debit card payments while they are out hawking their wares at Brooklyn Flea. The transactions get processed by Etsy just as they would when people purchase stuff through the website.

•••

Amazon expanded its food-delivery service AmazonFresh to Park Slope last week. The service offers prepared-food delivery as well as grocery delivery with online ordering, meaning it will be directly competing with FreshDirect as well as restaurant-delivery giants Seamless and GrubHub. For the pilot run, Amazon is partnering with local shops, manufacturers, and restaurants including Brooklyn Cupcake, Stinky Bklyn, and Red Hook Lobster Pound.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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