Get to know a Toronto startup: Groovie

There are some tried-and-true pairings in this world that will never get old. Toronto startup Groovie wants to make it a snap to get your fix of one classic combo: dinner and a movie.

The app, freshly launched in September, helps you find the movies playing around you, locates nearby dining spots to enjoy before the show, and facilitates inviting friends from your contact list and tracking RSVPs so that you can make a night of it. Currently available for iOS, the app will soon be available to Android devices.

This is one thoroughly homegrown startup, with all-Canadian owners, investors and development team. I asked founder Josh Hudson why he saw great potential in making this first date standby the focus of his startup.

What's the inspiration behind Groovie?

The story is a pretty familiar one. We really just got tired of sending a million texts and emails back and forth with our friends and spouses trying to figure out what movie we wanted to see and where were wanted to eat, only to give up and end up staying home on the couch watching a movie and ordering a pizza.

It's so easy to be persuaded to stay home and just turn on Netflix or Apple TV these days, which is great most of the time, but it's just not the same as going out to the theater. I remember trying to go see Man of Steel with my fiancee earlier this year - we could have flown to Krypton and back in less time than it took to pick a showtime and restaurant. We wound up staying home and watching The Dark Knight instead.

How does Groovie make money?

Groovie will always be free for users, but theatres and restaurants will be charged to be featured on the app. We're also planning to sell 'dinner & a movie' packages with our partners. The one thing we absolutely won't be doing is introducing banner ads, pop-ups or any affiliate advertising. Not only are they annoying, but they're also ineffective. One of the main issues with mobile marketing is businesses are trying to shoehorn in old advertising methods that simply don't work. Users don't have the time or patience for irrelevant information.

What does Groovie do better than other movie apps out there?

Our main competition is Flixster and other movie apps, and to a lesser degree, local movie showtime websites, like Tribute or Cinemaclock. Google Search is also a competitor in the sense that if all you want to to do is a find a showtime and nothing else, it's quick and easy.

With Groovie you can find showtimes, nearby restaurants and instantly send out an invite with texts and notifications to the people you go out with the most, who are all on your phone's contact list. At the end of the day, Groovie is really just taking something we all love to do, go see a movie with friends, family or a date, and make it a little easier and more fun. That's it. We're definitely not aiming to turn the tech world upside down, 'disrupt' anything or be bought by Facebook for a billion dollars.

What kind of people would really love your app?

Pretty much anyone who likes going to the movies, whether you're a hardcore film buff or you just go to the theater once in a while. Groovie is great for any movie fan, from tweens to twenty-somethings to families. It's also sort of a natural singles app as well, since grabbing dinner and a movie is a classic date. In fact, we've actually started talking to dating sites about doing some really fun and cool cross-promotions.

What has been your biggest challenge in getting your app ready to hit the market?

Without a doubt the hardest thing to do is make the app easy to use. Our development team worked tirelessly to build as simple an app as possible, constantly stripping away unnecessary features, information and bells and whistles, while still trying to create an elegant user experience. They did a remarkable job and put in a great deal of critical thinking before even a single line of code was written.

And they're still working on improving Groovie and responding to user feedback as quick as possible. The most successful consumer software is really dead-simple at its core -Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest - which is a herculean task. If you can't explain what your product does to a first-grader, then it's time to go back to the drawing board. And I'm thrilled to confess that my 6-year old niece is a power user of Groovie.

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