Business

Meet Deetz, a hyper-local, real-time mapping, community happening app created by a UI grad

It's launching first in Cedar Rapids, but founder aims to bring it to college towns

App developer and founder Eastyn Fitzgibbon says the idea for her new company #x201c;came about from COVID times, when e
App developer and founder Eastyn Fitzgibbon says the idea for her new company “came about from COVID times, when everything was changing day to day.” (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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Eastyn Fitzgibbon and her friends had difficulty finding current information about their community this spring due the state’s coronavirus pandemic and state orders for many businesses to close.

“The idea came about from COVID times, when everything was changing day to day,” said Fitzgibbon, 24, who graduated last year from the University of Iowa with a degree in chemical engineering.

“We saw a need for an app that had the information in real time in an anonymous fashion that encourages more engagement.”

Fitzgibbon recruited some young software developers to do something about it.

The result is Deetz, developed locally and available first to Linn County residents.

The staff of about eight tech specialists continues to work from home, supplemented by some new hires as the app went live May 20.

“We have four engagement specialists,” Fitzgibbon said.

“Those are people who are out and about in the community and understand what kind of content needs to be posted. They’re also moderators.”

On a user’s phone, Deetz — the name is shorthand for “details” — appears as a map on their mobile device.

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Users “pin” notes of up to 166 characters about events, bar and restaurant specials, and similar social information.

Unlike similar tools, Deetz doesn’t track users’ movements or gather other information.

“It’s real-time, anonymous and hyperlocal,” said Fitzgibbon, Deetz’ chief operations officer. “No other app out there really encompasses those three things.

“Other anonymous platforms don’t have that hyperlocal map feature. It combines all three to really show you what’s happening.”

Deetz users’ pins expire after 24 hours, ensuring a current feed.

“No other app allows for real-time user engagement, no other app allows for real-time business engagement,” said Raghul Ethiraj, a user who’s advising Fitzgibbon and her team.

Pins from business owners and their customers are designed to alert users to events and special deals in their immediate vicinity.

“It’s not an ad in the traditional sense,” Fitzgibbon said. “If they have a special they want to advertise on Facebook or Instagram, that kind of interrupts the flow and you might look right past it.”

Deetz went live May 20 and had “a couple hundred” users and 130 business users as of this past week. About 40 business have partnered with Deetz, which allows them more extensive pinning.

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“Food trucks have really found this useful,” Ethiraj said, and families with young children can check which playgrounds or splash pads are open

“We feel it’s a perfect time to launch,” he said. “This is the perfect place to say, ‘Today we’re open on the patio, tomorrow it’s not.’

“Cedar Rapids is a good place to start because it’s a big enough city that we can soft-launch it. We were able to test business fit, user fit.

“We learned a lot.”

The Deetz app is free for individuals and businesses. Fitzgibbons and her partners plan to offer premium services for subscribing businesses — while free users must be at a location to pin a note, premium users will be able to pin notes of daily specials and events with links to online menus and custom icons to attract users.

The Hy-Vee grocery store at 20 Wilson Ave. SW is a soft-launch partner, pinning details of in-store specials and sales, some with links to coupons.

Other area Hy-Vees will join as Deetz grows, according to Fitzgibbon.

A team of Coe College students is laying the groundwork for a launch of focused content, Fitzgibbons said.

The Deetz team also is assembling “ground teams” in Iowa City and Ames to roll out the local app as classes resume this fall. Work also is underway in Des Moines.

Deetz users can pin notes about campus events such as club meetings or warn of crowded libraries and cafeterias, to help students plan their day, Fitzgibbon said.

Nearby businesses can let students know about daily specials.

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Know a small business in the Corridor that could be an interesting “My Biz” feature? Tell us about it at michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

AT A GLANCE

• Business: Deetz App

Chief operating officer: Eastyn Fitzgibbon

• Website: deetzapp.com

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