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Source: Michelle Malek

Exclusive: Brandon Lee Heard Created His New App Pike to 'Provide Personalized and Authentic Experiences' That Go Above and Beyond

May 28 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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Brandon Lee Heard had one intention when launching his app Pike: to build a community.

While in Paris last summer, he was expecting the high-end luxury hotel he was staying at to give him some great recommendations, but instead, he was given generic, viral experiences that he'd already seen on the internet.

"Disappointed, I later asked a waitress named Christina at the hotel café for her recommendations. She stepped away, returned with a napkin and wrote down five unique experiences, encouraging my friend and me to follow them in order. These personalized suggestions turned out to be the highlight of my trip. Christina's tasteful recommendations were a living, breathing example of what Pike is designed to do: provide personalized, authentic experiences that go beyond the obvious and expected," the entrepreneur exclusively tells Morning Honey of how he came up with the idea in the first place.

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From there, his wheels started turning.

"The name 'Pike' is short for turnpike, which historically had toll booths you had to pass through to reach the other side. We loved this analogy, as it represents crossing into new places and experiences," the entrepreneur dishes about the new social app, created for tastemakers who pioneer the way people discover, save, and organize experiences. "Pike promises to link you up with whatever it is you want to find — while enabling culture and community along the way." He continues, "When designing Pike, we wanted to consider the experience that we’re providing, to make sure that it was utility focused: something that can be used on the go, whether you’re traveling far away or venturing to places of your city that you’ve never been before. It’s mobile-first and really easy to create guides, connect with people, keep tabs on places and extract the information you need."

Source: Alan Shindelman

Brandon Lee Heard's main goal is to build community.

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Heard also thought about "being culture-forward, enabling diverse and niche perspectives while having a unique brand identity," he explains of his vision.

While on the app, users can "create guides with any type of place or experience: guides for hikes, cafes, restaurants, places to ride your bike in a busy city or hotel interiors that make for a great retro-styled photoshoot," he notes. "To further connect with the community, Pike enlists cultural tastemakers and creatives at the forefront of music, nightlife, food, fashion and culture to share knowledge about the places that inform who they are and what they do."

One of the reasons why Heard, who has had the "opportunity to create apps for a range of clients, from start-ups to established global brands across various industries," started to create this app was because everyone turns to the same old shows, TikTok videos and "best of" lists when looking for a new restaurant or new hotspot, which can feel frustrating.

"When everyone has access to something special, it’s no longer special. We wanted to restore the trust by putting taste back into the hands of the tastemaker," he shares. "Most apps in this space are travel apps designed to only focus on restaurants, bars, tours and attractions. Their business model reinforces this by profiting through ticketing and commission based sales. I don’t consider Pike a travel app. Pike is a search engine for people who crave unique and desirable experiences through authentic voices and communities."

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Though Pike is still in its early stages, Heard and his team already have "a variety of guest-curated guides," he reveals, adding that prior to the launch, he hired someone to help create numerous guides so that content was readily available when Pike went live.

"We carefully considered various factors in structuring our guides, including location, vibe, use case and community. With these elements in mind, we engaged with real people and business owners who are part of these communities, we also threw on our sneakers and explored NYC firsthand, and conducted thorough desktop research to identify the most interesting, relevant, playful, and above all, useful experiences to include in our guides," he says, noting that Pike was "designed and developed in less than a year, taking about 10 months to go from an idea to reality."

Source: Vincent Caruso

The app is now live.

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"My favorite thing about the app is how quick and easy it is to save and organize a wide array of experiences. The creative potential is incredible, making it a bit addictive. Sometimes, when I'm waiting for the subway, I enjoy dumping all my ideas and recommendations onto the app, brainstorming witty guide names that will hook people in. It’s a fun and efficient way to keep all your inspirations in one place," he notes.

Pike will soon launch an algorithm that leverages machine learning technology to curate your feed. "This will ensure that part of your feed is based on your interests, while the other part introduces you to new experiences, making searching for experiences a secondary behavior. The places you are most likely to love (whether you know it or not) finds you as opposed to proactively having to seek out your interests," he shares. "This allows Pike to facilitate deeper connections between people and their interests, as well as the places that reflect those interests. By providing curated experiences and recommendations, Pike encourages people to explore new places and activities, fostering the discovery of new interests and cultivating a sense of community. Ultimately, this engagement benefits both our users and local businesses by connecting them in meaningful ways."

Though there's been some ups and downs along the way, he's learned to lean on others around him.

"Mike Tyson said, 'Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,' and the same is true for entrepreneurship. When things go awry, I've found it invaluable to crowdsource ideas, advice, resources and perspectives from those around me to quickly get back on track. Accepting that things won't always go according to plan and being resourceful, collaborative, and open-minded while focusing on what matters most has been crucial," he shares.

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Source: Vincent Caruso

Brandon Lee Heard hired a diverse team to help him with the app.

While creating Pike, Heard had to interact with "a diverse group from our core audience" in order to receive insightful feedback as part of his research.

"Pike is going to be a mirror of culture and identity across the globe, and because identity isn't a monolith neither should my team. I focused on building a highly diverse team. Our core team includes highly talented people passionate about heavy metal, design, Bravo and sneaker culture, as well as mothers, fathers, and people from various ethnic backgrounds living across the country. This diversity brings a wide range of perspectives and experiences, which is crucial for our growth and innovation," he says.

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Source: Vincent Caruso

The creator is thrilled to launch Pike.

Going forward, Heard hopes Pike, which is "young and still learning," will be around for years to come.

"Our vision is to unlock the tastemaker in everyone by giving people an opportunity to live off their recommendations and fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it. Pike will be a true reflection of culture and identity, serving as a hub for community and experiences for everyone involved. We aim to create a platform that not only connects people but also celebrates and amplifies diverse cultural expressions and personal identities. Start-ups have a long time making it, and I know we are the long shot who will win more than it knows," he says.

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Source: Alan Shindelman

The launch party for Pike was in Brooklyn, N.Y.

At the launch party for Pike in Brooklyn, N.Y., Heard brought together celebrities, media, influencers, brands and neighborhood friends under one roof to celebrate — which was his goal all along.

"The highlight of the evening was when a journalist told me, 'I’ve been to a lot of events like this, but this was the first one where I felt like I belonged.' By the end of the night, guests were rolling up their sleeves and helping us break down the event, loading my partner's truck —heels and all. In that moment, I took a step back to acknowledge and appreciate my intention materialize in real time."

He concludes, "Pike is not just an app; it's the embodiment of everything the younger me aspired to be. Now, I have the opportunity to share this vision with the world, and I couldn't ask for anything better."


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