Oren Peli, who wrote and directed the enormously successful film Paranormal Activity, is launching a new iOS and Android app designed to help users create, find and join local events.
Spot's launch might be doubly surprising — not only is Peli launching an app, but it seems like an odd idea to come from someone best known for horror movies (he also produced the Paranormal Activity sequels and the Insidious films).
However, Peli told me that before moving into movies, he actually started his career as a developer of animation software and video games. So in some ways, he's simply returning to his old career.
The app also addresses a problem Peli said he was facing after finding himself single again and feeling that standard one-on-one coffee dates were starting to feel "a little monotonous." What if, instead, there was an app that helped people connect around shared activities and interests?
There have plenty of startups sitting in the intersection of social, local and mobile, enough that the industry spawned its own obnoxious buzzword, but Peli is hoping Spot can rise above the rest by making it as simple as possible to join these events.
The Spot app allows people to create events in four categories: Hobbies, sports, community events and singles events. You can search for events by keyword, or just bring up a map showing what's nearby. Events can be public or private, they're shareable via social media and participants can chat with each other through the app.
"Spot's technology means I can create events for just a few people or large events," Peli said. "It's an easy way to say, 'Hey, I want to go hiking this afternoon, does anyone want to come with me?' "
When asked about safety, Peli noted that users create a Spot account by connecting to Facebook, Google or email, and they also can earn a verified user sticker by verifying their phone number over SMS. In addition, event organizers can ban users from their events and report inappropriate behavior.
Still, it seems like Spot is taking a fairly hands-off approach to the issue.
"I think that with a little bit of common sense, we can have a very nice and positive community," Peli said. "We won’t allow anything unpleasant. If anyone’s harassing anyone, we’ll take care of that [by warning or banning users]."
Spot is available globally, but Peli said the initial focus is on building a community in Los Angeles. The app is free. Eventually, Peli said Spot could make money through advertising and by featuring deals from local businesses.
As for whether Peli's time in Hollywood has affected the way he's approaching his new startup, he said it was really the other way around: "When I got into film with Paranormal Activity, my experience as a video game programmer made me comfortable with all the technological aspects of it. I don't know that the Hollywood experience had a similar effect."