It’s Totally a Real Job: Elle, Nerd Out App Founder

it's totally a real job...

We’ve been talking to a bunch of geeky women in this series, and a lot of the women like the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Stewie from IGGPPC have created geeky things for you to take part in all over the world. While those are awesome, sometimes I always wonder what fun and geeky events are happening in my very city. I remember searching fruitlessly several years ago for other conventions or meet-ups in my area, but I just wasn’t sure what to search for because I wasn’t looking for a specific event. I just wanted to know what fun and geeky options I had within a short driving distance. That sort of fruitless and frustrating searching is a thing of a past ever since Elle created the Nerd Out app. I’m sure by now you’ve at least heard someone mention this app, which is essentially a nerd calendar that is filled with user-submitted events. So whether you’re going on a vacation, moving, or just want to know what’s happening in your area, this app can help you scope out the nerd scene in your area (of course, the calendar is populated with user-submitted events, so if you are hosting a geeky event, be sure to submit it to the app to help get the word out). It’s a genius app. Most of all, I think it’s going to help a lot more people get involved in geeky things they’ve always been interested in, but never knew how to plug in. So OF COURSE I had to talk to the app’s founder, Michelle–aka Elle–about making this rad app a reality. So let’s all meet Elle!

Elle

Where did the inspiration for the Nerd Out App come from?
Back in April 2015 I had been invited to a few events because of my blog Your Friend Elle. I was driving home from work talking to a friend about how hard it was trying to keep track of all these events because their information was so scattered (twitter, Facebook, tumblr). It then hit me, all of the events were nerd related. I then thought how awesome it would be to not only have a way to keep track of events, but to discover new ones! Before I had the blog I didn’t really even know there was a nerd community. Everyone knows about San Diego Comic Con, but not so much about more local events. And what do you do for the rest of the year? I know a lot of people have anxiety about large events so SDCC is not conducive for them. Also, it’s harder to connect with people when you’re running from panel to panel so it’s nicer to have the option to go to smaller and larger events. So to solve all these issues I created Nerd Out.

Did you work on this project yourself, or was this more of a team effort? If it was a team effort, what was the story behind how you all met? Was this a group of friends who always talked about starting something like this, or did you find people specifically to help with this project?
I’m mostly been a solo project. I have a friend who does help out with searching for events, but the day to day maintenance and development is on my shoulders. It’s been 5 months since we launched the app and we’re starting to slowly bring people on board. I can’t really say too much other than that because nothing is solid yet, but the important part is we’re always moving forward. We’re always trying to make a big and better app! It’s been a big learning experience because I’ve never created an app or started anything (other than my blog) from scratch, but it’s been a wonderful experience I would never trade anything for.

You were able to fund the app in large part thanks to people backing the app. Were you surprised at how well received it was?
The indiegogo campaign didn’t go as well as I hoped, but I am super thankful to those who did donate. I’ll always be thankful to those people who believed in the app even before we had the physical product. I covered some of the startup costs with that money, but a majority has come out of my own pocket. It’s been hard, but I truly believe in Nerd Out and will continue to do so. I still get excited when people tell me they really love the app. It is really wonderful to hear from people across the world. I had a really lovely lady tell me a story about how the app helped her brother make friends in a new city by going to an event we had listed. I was so touched by the story that I teared up.

You also blog in addition to working on Nerd Out. When you started your blog, did you hope to see yourself starting a company like this, or were you hoping to just kick off a blog that was successful?
I actually started Your Friend Elle because a high school friend had started her own blog. At the time I was working at a job I could have done in my sleep so it was a nice way to do something creative after I had finished my day job. She stopped her blog after two posts, I keep mine going. I had become unemployed for a time after that job so the blog became my daily accomplishment. When you’re unemployed it’s easy to sit around and just wait for the phone to ring. I instead chose to at least write a blog post so that I felt I was accomplishing something. I don’t do well with just sitting around. I never really thought that the blog would lead to anything other than maybe some free travel stuff. I’ve been lucky to meet some awesome people through the blog, but never foresaw a company because of it.

What has been the most challenging part of getting the Nerd Out app out to the public?
Getting the word out on a daily basis is something you continually work on. Luckily, I had a little knowledge of social media because of the blog, but apps are a different ball game so it’s been a learning experience. I’ve also had to learn that some people will love the app, some people could care less, and some you’ll just never win over. I’ve only had a couple of the latter, and thankfully the people who love the app are in the vast majority. Note, we’ve gotten with far without a single major news outlet (ie. Nerdist, Mary Sue) posting about us. I can only imagine when the rest of the nerd world catches on!

What advice do you have for those wanting to create their own app?
Research, research, research. From April to August I did a ton of research. First step I took was defining the app’s purpose in one sentence. Then I dug into other apps and websites trying to find something like it. I found nothing like Nerd Out. There are some sites that list cons, but many of them are outdated. A few websites list events but only for certain cities. They’re nothing as vast as Nerd Out which covers everything from large cons to smaller intimate events. I was actually shocked no one else had come up with the idea before. From there I’d say to start really digging into how it should function, which is where research is really helpful. I looked at several other apps and websites to see what I did and didn’t like. The current version of Nerd Out is not everything we have in store, there will be much more for our users in the future!

How much work do you put in each day maintaining the app? I assume with updates and bug fixes, it’s nearly a full-time job.
I have a full time job on a TV series currently so I really have to juggle the two. Some days there’s not a whole lot going on at work so I can get app work done, others I have to wait till I’m at home. It varies on hours. I do also work weekends on it, so it is basically a 24/7 job. I’m on call all the time. I do hope someday to do Nerd Out full time and have a team with me. I believe we’ll get there by the end of the year if not sooner. Updates and big fixes luckily aren’t a daily thing. When we do have users email with issues we try and resolve them within 24 hours. And let me just say, I do truly appreciate when users email us. It tells me not only are they using the app, but they care enough to report an issues they’re experiencing. And it’s likely an issue that may affect others so they’re helping everyone.

What has been the most exciting thing you’ve gotten to experience since launching Nerd Out?
Seeing how it affects people. I had a lovely couple come up to me at Comikaze just to tell me my app is awesome. I couldn’t believe they searched out my table just to say that. I’ve gotten to talk to people from Australia to Spain that are asking when the app will be listing for their city. It really blows my mind! I feel very blessed to have created something that is helping people. I sometimes have to pinch myself.

What would you like to see for Nerd Out in the next five years?
Worldwide domination!!!! Just kidding, well, not really. I’d like to be global before that point. We’re adding cities as fast as we can maintain. In the next few weeks we’re doing a big push so we’ll be adding more. Once we really get into team territory I’m sure we’ll be adding cities left and right. I do also have some other fun stuff in the works but can’t talk about it until it’s confirmed. I’m hoping to have some news in the next month or two.

Where can we find you online?
You can, of course, check out the Nerd Out website, you can follow Nerd Out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can also check out my blog, Your Friend Elle. I’d also like to note that we are user submitted so if you see a city you’d like on the app, or if you have an event you’d like to submit please do reach out. You can find out how to do both by visiting our website. We currently cover 20 cities and will only be growing. We update on a daily basis to get the most up to date information out there for our users.

Thanks so much to Elle for taking time to talk with us and give us a peek into what goes into making a cool idea for an app a reality. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like Teal from My Gimpy Life and The Guild, IGGPPC co-founder StewieAmy, writer extraordinaireJordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion lineKathleen, author of the upcoming book The Fangirl LifeMari of Sent From Mars, the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Meli from Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

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