By: Benjamin Zirman  | 

Its Time To Get LIT

Marc Weiss 1Urban dictionary has two definitions for the word “lit”: “When something is turned up and popping” or “the state of being so intoxicated that all the person can do is smile, so that they look lit up like a light.” There is a new app hitting college campuses across America crafted by a student here at YU and his friends that is letting people know where the lit (Urban Dictionary first definition) parties are happening. Most people want to go out and grab a drink as statistics show that over 80% of college students across America drink alcohol. The average male freshman, according to the Core Institute, which surveyed 33,379 undergrads on 53 U.S. campuses in 2005, consumes 7.39 drinks a week. But there is a consistent problem that arises when students try to go out and have a fun time. They don’t know where the best venues are and how to best spend their money on any particular night. One night the party could be at one venue and the next night that same locale is empty. Girls spend hours in advance texting their friends trying to make plans and constantly updating their social media accounts for information about where to go out. A group of guys sometimes show up to bars or clubs and are upset that they are the only ones in the whole place besides for some questionable looking older man in the corner. The struggle is real! Thanks to LIT we might be looking at the solution to all of our nightlife problems.

The CEO and co-founder of this app is sophomore Mark Weiss, or as some people know him Mordechai Weiss. Mark went to the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, New Jersey and upon graduation in 2014 he went straight to Yeshiva University. He is in the Rennert Entrepreneurial Institute and plans to major in Accounting and the Entrepreneurial Program. He co-founded the app with his friend since middle school, Avi Jerushalmy. Avi is currently a junior at Binghamton majoring in History and serves as the COO of the company. The LIT team consists of three other partners who help run the business and legal sides of things. The two co- founders were inspired to create the app when they realized that partying was extremely inefficient. Students like themselves were wasting a lot of time and money at terrible expensive parties which they didn’t enjoy. It was impossible to find out real time information about a venue and if the hype and potential of a scene was real. About a year ago they started researching the industry, problems, as well as what it takes to bring an app to market. After doing their due diligence and developing an understanding of the partying market and mobile app business they were ready to build their party app.

LIT is a mobile application that allows users to find the optimal venue to spend nights out with friends. How does it work? According to its official description: “LIT revolutionizes the nightlife of college students and the older millennial crowd by giving them a real-time look at everything happening in their area including an interactive map intuitively exhibiting which venue is the “hottest” and quick-look “party stats” showing them if the party is at its peak crowd, if their friends are there, and more. Our mission is to provide real-time and accurate information as well as a simple user experience.” The app works if you’re at an official LIT campus. The interactive map of a given area will allow you to get the scoop of what is happening and where it’s happening, as the night unfolds. Users have the ability to rate various characteristics of the venue including crowd, door, cover charge, and music in addition to how many of your friends are there. The real time information points you where to go based on on the partying communities’ experiences and feedback, not store advertising. You will see flames on the application’s maps which represent different hotspots on campus. Once the night starts and users begin to check in at venues, the flame will build based on real time ratings. The bigger the flame the more lit the party is ranging from a small blue dead flame to a large red lit flame. Once you check out the place and its party statistics you can navigate directly to the venue to meet up with your friends and the best crowd. It is very simple to understand, and Mark stressed how important simplicity is for their user experience. The simplicity, accuracy, and real-time aspect set LIT apart from anything we have ever seen.

Another really cool aspect of the app is the community it creates through a social network. The app has built into it a strategic game that encourages users to constantly use the app. The more active the user, the bigger a party animal the user becomes which gets them apparel and discounts at local venues. Everyone starts off at the rookie level as a cat and can try and reach the highest status on the app which is represented by a lion. You can compete against your friends to see who the bigger party animal is. This allows users to interact with each other and strive to reach their full party animal potential. The more friends you have on the app allows you to see where they are and what they are up to on a given night. This is perfect for that crush a boy might have on a girl who never notices him or that stalker ex-boyfriend a girl wants to avoid at all costs. The partying community on the LIT app will go stronger and help the app become even more effective once more and more users hop on board.

Bars and clubs, and students, were both very receptive to the platform when it was pitched. In fact, LIT received over 200 campus requests to try and bring LIT to their campus. Mark stressed their biggest focus is to make sure college students are having a good time. They launched the app this spring semester at Binghamton and Rutgers to test the market and gauge how students and business owners would react to their platform. They recently launched their app at West Virginia, the number one party school in America according to the Princeton Review. They want to continue this and expand to many other large state schools across America. They have future goals to have a majority of students across American campuses be on the LIT platform.

Mark and his team are extremely busy at work trying to turn their vision of LIT into reality. They are focusing their efforts on social media marketing and meeting with frats and sororities as well as other campus influencers. They have hosted LIT Events, where they host a party at a bar or frat. To enter you are required to have downloaded the app, and inside they have branded paraphernalia all around the venue. Their LIT Events have been extremely successful in raising brand awareness and ensuring a good time for everything eryone who attended the party. At the moment they have about 3,000 users on it right now. The LIT team has been pairing up with local venues to spread their revolution to the best venues on every official LIT campus. It is beneficial for venues to work with LIT because when a user checks in, all their friends are notified which will increase traffic to their venue. Venues have been so excited about the idea of working with LIT that all have been working with LIT free of charge. Additionally, they have been reaching out and searching for campus ambassadors to be the people on the ground at different colleges to develop and implement marketing strategies, provide strategic feedback and help run any LIT events. Lastly, they have been in touch with some celebrities to promote the platform. As LIT grows, they are looking for seed investment to help acquire users and incentivize activity because the app is based on user feedback. Since LIT needs a concentrated amount of people using it at the same time for it to be effective, it needs to have motivations for users to be active on the app. All the work they are doing now is laying down the foundation for a very bright looking future for LIT.

There are many other aspiring CEO’s and app creators in YU, so Mark wanted to let them know what his own experience as a founder and CEO is like. Mark described to me how he and Avi are accountable for everything going on in the company from user experience, planning events, hiring ambassadors, figuring out ways to incentivize activity, and making LIT go viral. There is a need to constantly be updating and innovating their app, making it more simple and more user friendly. In short, the work doesn’t end. But that’s the nature of a startup, you are never done. In order to get their work done, they both cleared their schedules last summer and didn’t plan anything for this summer in order to completely devote themselves to the app. Although he is sacrificing his summer, he also spoke about what a blessing it was and how much fun he was having getting the chance to work with a childhood friend. Some of their hard work is about to come to fruition as they are working on their website, Igotlit.com, which he ensured will be state of the art.

I asked Mark to share with me some insights about being an entrepreneur and pursuing his ambitions. The first piece of advice he conveyed to me was: how important it is to speak with experts and experienced people in the industry who have done it before you. Odds are that you will run into the same mistakes and problems others have run into, but if they figured it out they can help you avoid or overcome any similar challenges. He spoke extremely highly of Dean Michael Strauss, Head of the Honors Entrepreneur Program, who has helped Mark tremendously and always has an open door policy, no matter what time or hour you email or want to speak with him. His guidance has been a big part of their success and can be an extremely important resource for other entrepreneurs.

A second big thing Mark emphasized was time management. He said there are no vacations and you need to always be working if you want your dream to become a reality. He hates the words “good enough” because products can always be better. Complacency truly is the biggest barrier to innovation. There is so much to do, improve on, and accomplish in addition to personal and academic obligations, it seems that there isn't enough time in a day. Also, don’t panic at the first set back. Nothing happens overnight and Rome wasn’t built in one day! A lot of times you think everyone is going to run to your product with the same excitement and enthusiasm that you have. The truth is that the market is more similar to a crying baby, you don’t know what it wants but you need to keep trying until you satisfy it. These pieces of advice have been the key to Mark’s personal success and could be the key to other aspiring entrepreneurs at YU.