Cologne on, dress pants clean, and IDs ready — your Friday night is in full swing. But before you take a step behind the bouncer-guarded pearly gates, check your cell phone. It may just save you the cover charge.
At least that's the kind of thinking Kayvan Zainabadi wants to incite. After all, it's exactly what his brainchild, InstantNightlife, aims to do: spare you the "I wish I knew" regret by breaking down a club's got-to-know weekend profile by cover charge, line length, gender ratio, dance-floor capacity, and music styling — all in real time. The set-up of the scheme "is not rocket science," says Zainabadi: gaggles of legal-aged MIT students run about from one venue to another, sorting each location into the above criteria. They relay updates every 15 minutes between 10:30 pm and 1:30 am to home base, where the information is posted on the starkly minimal, black-backgrounded site.
For a cutting-edge service that's geared toward the Web-savvy, why so simple? Zainabadi explains that functionality trumps design. "The comments that people sent have been, 'Thank you for making this so easy to use on my iPhone or BlackBerry.' "
At 29, the Iranian-born, Los Angeles native boasts a decade-long history of clubbing as background for the venture. "I started going to clubs at 19," he says. "Obviously, with a fake ID — don't tell my parents." In talking of Nightlife, he is much like a salesman, pitching scenarios in which the site would be most useful, all the while sitting in a (surprisingly flashy) InstantNightlife T-shirt. "What's good tonight? What's the music like? For example, Sunday at Caprice had Latin night. That's the kind of information I'd like to know."
A post-doctoral fellow at MIT, Zainabadi has plenty of research to support his new site. ("Fifty-three percent of people go solely by word-of-mouth when choosing clubs," he says.) But the real inspiration for the undertaking was a simple night out in the barren social wasteland that is the city during the holidays. It was November 2008 and Zainabadi and his roommate were eager to hit the neighborhood hot spots, but unsure of who'd be around. "Boston completely empties out during Thanksgiving," says Zainabadi. "We didn't want to waste money on a cab and then have to pay $15, $20 to get in if nobody was there." After a few tossings of "if onlys" between the two, an instant, real-time light bulb switched on.
Nightlife is still a Web-baby, entering only its third week, but its coverage (eight clubs so far, all of which are in the Theatre District) has prompted over 2000 site visits, as well as one venue's advertising interest. Future plans include neighborhood expansion (specifically Faneuil Hall), an InstantNightlife app for iPhones, and presumably, more gaggles.