In a time of countless listicles, city guides and review websites, an app by two 23-year-olds aims to cut through all the clutter and offer a curated guide to New Zealand’s Super City. Index, founded by George Howes and Alex Brown, is an app that profiles the top picks for cafés, restaurants, stores and even date ideas, and it’s taking off thanks to another app: Tinder.
With thousands of options for shops and eateries in Auckland, some might say JAFAs are spoiled for choice when deciding what to do with their spare time.
But as anyone who’s spent too long flicking through the Netflix catalogue will know, too much choice is difficult, and Index co-founder George Howes says Auckland’s offering needed a little refinement.
“Auckland needed a single place [like Index] with everything worth doing, and that place had to be accessible on the go,” he says.
“People will see an article or blog post with the top thirty places to get lunch in Ponsonby, but that article isn’t of much use when standing in the middle of Ponsonby looking to get some lunch.
“With Index, you’ll pull out your phone and tap the cafés category and the first thing you’ll see is the closest café to you and because our listings are heavily curated - it will definitely be one of the best.”
Brown's background in tech and Howes' background in advertising helped to create Index.
The categories on the app include cafés, quick bites, bars, restaurants, date ideas and stores. ‘Open air’ (outdoor activities) and events are coming soon.
Though there’s already the likes of Denizen, Concrete Playground and The Urban List putting together their top picks for spending and grazing, Howes says Index has found a middleground between online guides to the city and review and directory apps.
“You have the highly curated cuisine magazines that feature long reviews and quality photos, on the other hand you have directory apps like Yelp and Zomato that offer quantity over quantity. We found a gap in the market where people are still looking for a level of curation, but at the same time wanting it with the accessibility of a mobile app.”
One of the main drawcards of the app is has location services that pinpoint the closest cafés and stores to the user, making it a handy tool to have on the go when looking for a bite to eat or a shop to drop into.
Index also lists key information about the business, such as the price range, opening hours, location and a short blurb describing the joint.
There’s also a favourites option and as would be expected from two Millennial entrepreneurs, integration with Uber.
Howes says businesses featured are selected based on the quality of the experience they offer.
For example, with the cafés and quick bites categories, he says they look at the quality of the food and what the atmosphere’s like.
“This doesn’t mean it has to be a fancy high class venue, we are just looking for some kind of character. It might be a Chinese takeaway store with plastic seats, but if the dumplings are amazing - it can still make the cut,” he explains.
High-quality photography doesn’t hurt, either, as photos of businesses feature prominently on the app.
The preview of what the shop, café or food will look like helps appease the Millennial generation the app is aimed at, as easy to investigate if a store or café is beautifully done and ‘gram-worthy.
After a few weeks on the app store, he says the app has received thousands of downloads.
But the most exciting part of the app’s growth is the amount of people that return to the app daily and how long they spend using it, he says.
At the moment, he says the average index user spends eight minutes a day using the app.
Most of the users have found out about the app through word of mouth and the Index Instagram account, but a good chunk of its popularity is coming from another app: Tinder.
Howes says guys are using Index for ideas and inspiration on where to take their Tinder dates, and this has kickstarted the success of the app.
However, 78 percent of the users are female – which Howes says shows nothing gets in the way between a Kiwi girl and a good brunch spot.
In the future, Index plans on growing its revenue by letting venues create their own content through a subscription-based model.
The standards will be high, Howes says – venues won’t be allowed to pay to be featured if they don’t meet Index’s standards.
“We feel that the curation is so important to the apps success as it is what separates us from our competition,” he says.
But for now, Howes says the number one priority is to get the app working perfectly for its users.