Technology allows us to connect with other people at the touch of a button, all over the world. There are mobile apps today that allow us to easily connect with others, whether we want to strike up conversation, create meaningful friendship or meet a potential love interest. It has become so normative, that we may not even stop to consider that it isn’t as easy as “swiping right” in other parts of the world or more socially conservative communities. Furthermore, the fact that almost 80% of the world’s population still live in developing countries, drove the two founders to help effect change. Kirk and Chad, with cultural roots in Canada and the Caribbean respectfully, understand the challenges that individuals face in developing or more socially conservative countries, especially for those in the LGBTQA+ community.
Inspired by the limitations individuals face due to lack of control and privacy while trying to connect with others online, they decided to create a privacy oriented social network for men that gives users more control of the online chat and dating experience. The app was named LIIV in the hope that users worldwide would be inspired to live on their own terms. For many people, particularly gay men, in these developing or conservative countries being public about one’s sexuality may result in ostracization or even physical harm. LIIV provides a safer, more privacy oriented platform that allows users to express themselves and socialize with greater peace of mind.
What makes LIIV different
Many mainstream apps simply allow users to connect with each other without much focus on privacy and user control. Furthermore, they allow for integration with publicly shared information like Facebook, Instagram, or even the ability to share screenshot captures or messages from a chat conversation. LIIV’s unique suite of safety and privacy features include screenshot blocking, location faking, disappearing messages, unsend messages, app cloaking and more. Privacy is of the utmost importance and the founders Kirk and Chad have gone through great lengths to ensure that users feel comfortable and in control when using the app.
More than just an app for social good, the founders have identified proven monetization strategies for their business, already in use in the industry at large. These include premium subscriptions, advertising, e-commerce, licensing of key features to noncompeting firms via API packages, as well as the white labeling of the app for different use cases / industries that experience similar privacy and security concerns (law and medicine among them).
Building of the App
Kirk and Chad knew that they wanted to build the app in Canada for a few reasons. They wanted to become a part of the tech ecosystem in Kitchener-Waterloo, wanted to leverage the resources, talent and community here and they wanted to build the best app possible with developers of various cultural backgrounds and perspectives. Recently, and with the assistance of the Accelerator Centre, Kirk received permanent residence through the Canadian Government’s Startup Visa Program, so the team could continue to grow in Canada. They mostly bootstrapped the building of the app, and were able to secure funding with the AC Jumpstart program and hire local developers to help them build a secure, private and intuitive app experience for their users.
How AC Jumpstart Helped
LIIV went from conception to a developed app within the span of 10 months. Chad remarks, “AC Jumpstart allowed us the funds to secure talent and resources to build our app and quickly. We worked very hard with our team to make this happen and now we are proud to see LIIV in the app store, with users from areas such as: the Caribbean, Middle East, Asia and Canada. The vast majority of our users thus far have downloaded the app organically and we are receiving positive feedback. We are excited and motivated to take that feedback and continue development of an app that is truly helping the LGBTQA+ community.”
The LIIV team is very passionate about their cause to create technology that allows men to connect with other men safely and securely, regardless of beliefs, geographic location, values, community, etc. “No one should ever feel shamed or sheltered from making meaningful connection with others- we want to enable and empower men in developing and socially conservative areas”.
LIIV has also teamed up with a local Non-Profit called, Rainbow Railroad to giveback and collaborate on this project. The goal is to spread awareness, increase visibility and use the tech platform for good, and the Rainbow Railroad partnership has given mutual, invaluable collaboration in that respect. LIIV hopes to connect with other non-profits and passionate communities as they grow to spread the word and giveback.
“AC Jumpstart truly gave us the ability to build the interface of the app with which our users connect on. Looking at development, design and operating costs to build a robust app with the security/ privacy functionalities required, makes it a lengthy engagement without proper resources, team members and skill sets to build it. AC Jumpstart expedited everything with both monetary value, valuable networks of developers/coders for hire, the mentors who helped us and much more. We now have a team of four, our app is in the app store, we are getting great reviews and feedback and new users everyday.”
What is Next?
The LIIV team is now looking to secure seed funding to continue working with Canadian talent to develop new features, to build the highly sought after IOS version of the app and to expand their presence into Central, South and East Asia for interested users. Meanwhile they are appreciative of the progress made so far, they understand that the journey has only just begun, and are buoyed by the opportunity to positively impact the lives of tens of millions of men worldwide.
AC JumpStart is made possible by and investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Laurier, and the University of Waterloo.