Thursday, June 1, 2023

App developers innovate locally

Scott Popescu’s Karmatic app connects people through their license plates.(Photo by Mark Miller)
Scott Popescu’s Karmatic app connects people through their license plates.(Photo by Mark Miller)

New smartphone applications developed by a Lantana and a Flower Mound resident might just be the answer for those looking either to locate someone driving a motor vehicle or find a trusted person to fix something around the house.

Both apps launched recently in iOS mode only; with Android versions available later. Both are free to users, while each creator seeks investors/mentors to help monetize them through upgraded services.

Scott Popescu’s Karmatic app is a social media chat option that connects people through their license plates; while Mahesh Kashyap’s ReferLocals allows users to find service professionals recommended by family, friends and neighbors.

The 22-year-old Popescu also works full-time for Brookhaven Media, his social networking company he started earlier this year that promotes other companies and brands to his 20-million Twitter followers and four-million followers on Instagram.

His office is his new apartment adjacent to the American Airlines Center in Dallas, where he moved this summer from his parents’ home in Flower Mound.

A baseball player at Flower Mound High School– and for two years at Midland Junior College– Popescu quit the sport to concentrate on a career in social media and to earn his degree in general business at Stephen F. Austin University in May.

It was a combination of his social media savvy and the increased levels of road rage that prompted him to develop Karmatic.

“When you are driving on the road and someone cuts you off, right now there is no social media or technology where you can talk to the person,” said Popescu. “You can flip them off, but that’s all. There’s really nothing out there and that’s when the idea kind of sparked. I thought ‘there’s got to be a way you can talk to them.’”

Karmatic can only be used when not moving, so it works best when a passenger takes a photo of another car’s license plate. Users must sign up to use Karmatic, then be accepted by those they are targeting.

“Basically with Karmatic you type in their license plate and if they are a member it shows their profile,” Popescu said. “It kind of goes the Facebook route from there, where you can send a friend request or– if you don’t want to send a friend request and they’re the person who cut you off and you want them to hear your mind– you can send them an anonymous audio message. They won’t know who you are. So, even if it’s somebody who scares you, they’ll never know who you are. They’ll just get a message from you and that’s it.”

While that was Popescu’s original intent with Karmatic, two additional uses have surfaced. One is men and women connecting. As of 1,000 initial beta-testing users, between five- and 10-people said they secured dates through the app.

“They said they saw a cute girl or a cute guy driving next to them, they’d add them as a friend and there’s a messaging feature on the app to exchange phone numbers and they’d go on dates,” he said. “That was like the second thing that happened. We didn’t figure that one.”

The third was the ability to rate drivers on a 0- to 10-scale, something Popescu said those of his Millennial generation seem to like.

Since it launched in August, Karmatic has been called “Facebook for the Road” by some of its subscribers. Popescu said Karmatic trended No. 1 on the iOS app store, with 7,500 downloads on its first day– ahead of even Pokémon Go. By mid-October he had 20,000 downloads, but Popescu said it really needs one-million to monetize completely.

“Right now we’re just focused on growing,” said Popescu, who started dabbling in social media in high school for fun, then made it a career after he began generating some income. “Our next steps, besides growing, is bringing investors into the company, offering equity in return. From there, we will push more on social media, hire a developer full-time to be able to add Android. We’re also asking our current users about features they’d want.”

Mahesh Kashyap’s new app allows users to find service professionals recommended by family, friends and neighbors.(Photo by Mark Miller)
Mahesh Kashyap’s new app allows users to find service professionals recommended by family, friends and neighbors.(Photo by Mark Miller) officially launched in September and within the first month already had businesses contacting Kashyap. He also has placed numerous helpful articles and tips on his website blog and Facebook sites to spread the word.

Kashyap’s goal is for people to save time and money by connecting them with professionals in a variety of fields. Services include cleaning people, handymen, locksmiths, air conditioning repairers, electricians, roofers, dog groomers and even babysitters.

“My goal is to start with North Texas and make sure people can use the app, because there’s zero cost to use the app,” said Kashyap, a 33-year-old native of India who studied electrical engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Want to hire someone? Simply go to the app, post what service you need and where and, based on the algorithm setup, the app-users living near you will first be notified followed by those service providers with the app. Users will be able to choose from recommended providers and professionals who supply a detailed estimate of the work.

“The idea came to mind when I was trying to get something done at my place that was broken and I was trying to find a handyman,” said Kashyap, who moved to Lantana from Irving in 2014. “I was searching Google all day and ended up having my friend recommend someone. So it hit me that ‘hey, people prefer to hire someone who comes from recommendations, so why don’t I build something where people can benefit from it.’”

Connections ultimately could be professional to professional with categories like emergency services, even exclusive rights to zip codes or cities. Kashyap hopes to have premium services available by this time next year.

“Even professionals are looking to grow their business,” he said. “They’re looking to branding in their neighborhood where people can recognize them. I wanted something where there’s virtually no cost to enter where they can build their business, just based on those recommendations.”

Until he can monetize his app, Kashyap will continue at his full-time job as an information technology consultant. He also owned a residential real estate development firm he closed in 2015.

“Down the road my goal is to provide them [service providers] with something they can afford – a yearly or monthly service and in return I would provide them with a way to take their business from this level to the next level and get a great return on their investment.”

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