It’s time to dance: DePaul acts as testing site for “Little Disco”

Seeming to appear overnight, Little Disco emerges as a social media app driven by real human connection. The “rehearsal space” for this venture is DePaul. Buzz for the app started building around campus in October 2022, by following students from @depauldisco, and posting cryptically. This was the app’s main vehicle to build traction in the DePaul community.  The ads left students wondering what Little Disco is. This buzz came to a head with the first “disco” taking place on Dec 12, 2022. 

Little Disco follows in the footsteps of apps like BeReal, setting a new trend of real genuine moments being captured by social media. Little Disco places groups of four students, who have verified their DePaul emails to join the app, in a random video call at a set time during the day, only lasting a few minutes. 

“[When asked] I’ve been saying that the app feels like a mix of a zoom breakout room and Omegle but way safer,” junior Kayla Kohlin said. 

As the app grew, its algorithm for deciding the groups of students has become more nuanced. Now taking users’ interests, friends and who they have “high-fived” in the app into account. 

“We don’t want to make it super just like stay in your own clique, because I think that you can do perfectly well…” Little Disco CEO Caroline Ingeborn said. ”But so there is like, we that’s why we ask for things like, what are your interests? And so we match you with your friends and your friends of friend”. 

Little Disco is the product of a tech start-up, Leap, based in San Francisco. Originally, the startup aimed at developing apps for senior citizens, a group traditionally overlooked by tech developers. However, for this project, Leap took a different approach. 

“We had one intern that joined us in this, and she was a student at DePaul. I want to say in late October, we were like, what if we’re just doing this all wrong?” Ingeborn said. “This should be for students because students are more… willing to test new things.” 

When finally releasing the app for testing, the team realized there was something special about DePaul. 

“There’s something in the curiosity and the creativity of DePaul students that I don’t know if we would have found this in any other school,” Ingeborn said. “It’s a good fit.” 

However, some students don’t fully understand what the app is,” junior public relations and advertising major Lauren Kolasinski said. “I feel like it went under the radar for most people.” 

The app’s usage has waxed and waned as beta testing has continued. 

“We were tracking how many people went to discos… it was like around 20 people-ish,” Ingeborn said. “But that was during the holidays, and then our notification, then our notification stopped working. And so then we then no one even knew when the discos were, so then we had like, no users.”

While it may seem counterintuitive, Kolasinski suggests maybe more exclusivity is the solution to drive app engagement. 

“If it was almost like an exclusive club, then it would be a really big thing,” Kolasinski said. 

As you can tell [from their marketing] they’re good at being secretive. If they can be really secretive and exclusive. I think they’d be a big deal.” 

The thought of having to talk to strangers, even fellow DePaul Students, makes some students apprehensive. 

“I’m definitely intrigued [by Little Disco], but I get socially anxious sometimes,” Kohlin said. 

But for the creators, any interaction with Little Disco is a good thing. 

“The early feedback is like gold dust. Even when I have students saying, this sucks… I’m like, Okay, thank you. Tell me why,” Ingeborn said. “It’s a little bit of a miracle every time you get someone to click on anything that you built… I’m just so grateful that people are curious and opinionated.”