“The story of Gurilla was born out of irony and rather innocuously one day when I had my reservice call up,” shared Gurilla founder Melf Png.
Inspired by “SAF’s uncanny efficiency” when he saw the flashing green soldier on television (a signal that instantly mobilises men serving reservist), he imagined the possibilities of incorporating this same flashmob technology into other aspects of people’s lives. This would be ideal for retailers, he thought, allowing them to instantly create calls-to-action for people to attend events and promotions.
Melf added, “Coincidentally, in the very same week itself, I was trying to ask my friends out using WhatsApp’s group chat for a get-together at Arab Street. But to my dismay, halfway through our conversation, one joker started straying away from the original topic and talked about irrelevant stuff like his pets.”
Needless to say, the desired session eventually did not materialise for this frustrated organiser. “I decided that something must be done to make event planning easy and social mobilisation possible to every man.”
How Gurilla Works
Dedicated to events planning, the app allows you to create private circles for a party planning committee, or open-invitation events if you simply want as many people as possible to attend that New Year’s countdown you organised. Using categorisation tools such as searchable ‘Interests’ tags and event hashtags, users can be part of multiple social circles with familiar friends, while being kept in the loop to make new ones.
“You can group your close friends or colleagues into different Social Circles like Cycling Buddies, Shopping Khakis, etc., for you to easily mobilise them to private social events at a few swipes [on Gurilla]. Obviously you can’t do that with Meetup,” said Melf, when asked how he felt about his app being compared with other similar ones. A bigger public event would depend on the hashtag and virality of social media to spread the word.
Gurilla is one of the latest apps on Betalist, and with the Silver award in the Best Ideas category in the SiTF awards in 2014 already under its belt, it seems set to grow even bigger.
Resistance To RSVP: Will Gurilla Take Off In Singapore?
Before users get heady with power, let’s do a run through of its features. Just less than a week old on Betalist, the social app is now open to beta testers using Android devices. However, approved access to the app usually takes a few days — which I haven’t received due to short notice — hence the lack of screenshots here.
At its core, Gurilla trusts that people on social media want to be social. With the aid of event hashtags and searchable interests, Gurilla doubles as a platform for users to make new friends by inviting others with common interests nearby to join them for activities.
In 2014, We Are Social reported that Singaporeans were the most active users of social media, thanks in part to our high Internet penetration rates. But how many of us would actually say hello to a stranger, let alone ask them to join us for lunch?
Getting Singaporeans to socialise with random strangers isn’t an easy task — unless there is some form of monetary incentive pegged to the process. Projects such as Hello Stranger do not often last very long; a testament to how Singaporeans are often too shy, even when doing good. Getting them to speak at length with strangers in order to know their story is even harder, with many fearing possible awkward situations.
With the use of dating apps becoming a norm, however, and the accompanying stigma of eating alone, impromptu meetings with total strangers might just become something to look forward to — at least in the near future.
The Trend Of Personalised Marketing
To stay afloat, of course, apps like Gurilla rely on the support of other companies to help pay the bills. This is not something new to the industry: in Singapore, many startup apps such as Sugar, Rabbler and Gurilla find themselves having to walk the fine line between being useful to consumers as well as companies.
And they’re doing so through dimensional marketing — a trend that sees users receiving personalised marketing information, letting them interact and engage with brands they love on a deeper level. This means that rather than bombarding users with unnecessary advertisements, these apps connect users to brands via small and large scale events.
The novelty of such a form of marketing has not worn off yet; users continue to be receptive to it, mainly because they get the choice to interact with brands that reciprocate.
Troop of Gurillas
Gurilla is surely not the last of disruptive social media apps to come out from Hakodesh Empire, which seems set on creating more apps that get people acting by the hundreds. This is especially true when we look at the popularity of celebratory flash mobs such as The MP3 Experiment (organised by The Hidden Good and Improv Everywhere), and more recently, the marriage proposal at Changi airport that went viral with the help of Glee Studios Singapore and Singapore Show Choir Academy.
Exposure to the excitement seen in flash mob videos might entice youths to participate out of curiosity. When asked if Melf is a veteran of flash mobs, he replied, “Oh yes, I participate in a flash mob regularly every year — as a matter of fact, every Singaporean NSman gets to do it with me while wearing green!”
If Gurilla really does turn Singapore in a world (or rather, country) without strangers, sign me on.