The Hotlist, a fast-growing location-based social-networking platform, was envisioned by its four founders, two of them Stern undergrads, after an unsatisfying night out in New York City in 2006. “We were going from bar to bar, trying to find a good spot to hang out, but never did,” says Chris Mirabile, now The Hotlist’s CEO. “We ended up at an awful club, followed by a bar that was closed for a private party, went across town, and then got a message from some friends who were having fun just a few blocks from where we started.”
During the next few months, the founders, including Mirabile’s fellow Stern undergrad student, Jamie Briones (B.S.’06), spent their spare time developing the concept of a service that would make it easier for Facebook members to meet up, combining the social network with smartphones. They fine-tuned their vision in a business plan that in won the 2007 Stern New Venture Competition and a $25,000 prize, making them the youngest students ever to do so. Mirabile says two Stern professors helped fortify the The Hotlist in its early stages: Glenn Okun, professor of management and entrepreneurship and Amitav Chakravarti, associate professor of marketing.
In 2010, The Hotlist was able to raise a round of funding from angel investors, led by Joseph J. Grano, former chairman and chief executive of UBS Financial Services. The angel investors “empathize with the founders’ vision and look at the long-term,” Mirabile says. The funds helped The Hotlist build a strong team of managers and engineers, some with NYU credentials, such as Eugene Y. Jen, who holds an advanced degree in computer science. The Hotlist has access to public information on hundreds of millions of Facebook members, which means potentially extending its reach broadly on that social network. Today it has 250,000 users and plans to hit one million by mid-2011. “Our vision is to build something recognizable in the large market,” says Mirabile. Prospects are so bright, the company turned down an acquisition offer in late 2010.