New ‘Social Travel App’ Frienzy Launches Out of Dallas » Dallas Innovates

New 'Social Travel App' Frienzy Launches Out of Dallas » Dallas Innovates

Dallas natives and childhood best friends, James McElroy and Asher Wabrek went their separate ways at 18 to UT Austin and LSU, respectively. In the years since, they’ve gone on “countless backpacking trips” together and dealt with pain points along the way. The biggest pain: endless text & email chains planning trips with friends. Then all the wrestling with shared costs, expenses, and posting memories and impressions on a scattershot of apps and social media sites.

“Coordinating friends’ travel and expenses through text and email chains is a nightmare because it leads to disorganized information, missed details, and confusion over shared costs and plans,” Wabrek told Dallas Innovates.

Now—at 26 and 27 and at the upper end of Gen Z—McElroy and Wabrek aim to fix all that with the commercial launch of Frienzy, a new social network and mobile app they’ve launched out of Dallas. 

Frienzy’s co-founders are COO Asher Wabrek (left) and CEO James McElroy [Composite photo; originals: Frienzy]

Frienzy is “a first of its kind” social network that brings group travelers together to securely manage their trip itinerary. Available for both Apple and Android mobile devices, the app lets users receive real-time updates on group events and itinerary changes with the ability to book activities, hotels, dining, and more directly from the app. 

Frienzy tracks shared expenses to enable “accurate and transparent cost splitting and payment,” the founders say, offering “one source of truth for trip coordination.” For everything from quick getaways to dream vacations, the app lets group travelers connect through “a global network of traveling companions” seeking to join forces and make new friends—with tools to capture and share every moment.

Targeting Gen Z—and modeling behavior for older generations

The co-founders believe Gen Z is all in on group travel and travel in general. They point to an April article by Thrillist, Gen Z Is Spending Nearly Half of Their Disposable Income on Travel, which cites a study showing that 78% of Gen Z travelers intend to take a vacation in the next 12 months. Nearly 50% of those surveyed said they’d be dedicating 20% to 40% of their disposable income toward their vacation.

According to Morning Consul Pro, more than half of Gen Z adults (52%) have taken at least three trips over the previous year.

McElroy says Frienzy was designed to make those trips smoother and even more memorable.

“Frienzy is more than an app,” he said in a statement. “It’s an entirely new social network and catalyst for bringing friends together around their shared love for adventure and authentic experiences as well as making new connections with likeminded travelers seeking to share their journey and forge new friendships.”

“Digitally savvy Gen Z is known for meticulous planning and detailed itineraries while also embracing spontaneity,” he added, “so Frienzy had to be flexible enough to manage a pre-built itinerary and empower users to build their adventure on the fly. And we succeeded.”

Putting the ‘social’ in social networks

McElroy and Wabrek see their Gen Z compatriots—who make up more than 20% of the U.S. population—as “particularly open to group travel and shared experiences because they value meaningful connections and memorable adventures.” They think this can appeal to Millennials and Gen X as well through their social networks.

Now they want to Frienzy to be the network where all that happens—helping users better coordinate frequent trips, split costs, and share their experiences with others.

“We aim to get people off their screens and into the world to meet, connect, and share real-life experiences,” McElroy told us.

How the app works

Users start their journey on Frienzy by uploading an itinerary or manually inputting their destination and travel dates. The app then recommends bookings based on user interests, including activities, places to stay, and dining options.

Private travel groups of friends and family can be set up through the app for a single trip or a global, multi-destination journey.

Switching to “discovery mode” on the app, an itinerary can also be built from Frienzy’s “growing network of traveling companions willing to share their experiences, empowering travelers to discover and connect with new friends or other trips.”

During a trip, the app tracks shared expenses and allows group travelers to see and pay what they individually owe. There are also “easy ways” to share photos and trip updates along the way—eliminating the need to coordinate group travel using text messages, e-mails, and phone calls “by automating group communication, improving collaboration and safety.”

Funding from a recent angel round—and over 15,000 users already

Developed over the last year, the beta version of the Frienzy app has already attracted over 15,000 users “through organic advertisement, bootstrapped marketing efforts, and word of mouth only,” Wabrek said.

That’s about to change now that the app has officially launched. The co-founders recently closed an angel funding round that snagged an undisclosed amount from “local family offices, early-stage venture capitalists, and individual angel investors.” 

Now they aim to kick things up a notch: The team expects to reach “250,000 multigenerational users” by the end of 2024 through organic growth and strategic distribution partnerships. 

“We’re about to turn on paid ads next week for the first time, which we’re super pumped about,” Wabrek said. “We’re seeing users in 20-plus countries so far, too, which is a fun fact to note.”

To help spread the message, the co-founders also recently hired a social media manager, Rachael Poissenot. Wabrek says she’s taken the business “to new heights.”

While the co-founders and their team developed the app in-house, they’re now “orchestrating several B2B partnerships with major distribution channels” to ensure an influx of travelers.

The co-founders say they’re currently seeking opportunities to fuel Frienzy’s next wave of growth “through additional funding rounds.”

Giving users the chance to go viral

McElroy says Frienzy offers an “element of virality.”

“Users can share their travel experiences and potentially go viral on our discovery page, blending social media excitement with travel,” he said.

But sharing expenses, locations, and plans can raise privacy concerns, and the CEO says they’ve built Frienzy with that in mind.

“Private travel groups on Frienzy are secure, with information shared only within the group and not with the larger community,” he noted.

Still, there are ways people across groups can share and connect.

“Strangers can cooperate across our network by sharing itineraries, tips, and experiences, and even joining group activities or trips, fostering a community of like-minded travelers,” McElroy said.

Wishing he had the app in Bali

Last year, before Frienzy went live, Wabrek took a trip and wish he’d already had it on his phone.

“I spent some time in Bali and had the privilege of meeting such wonderful and eclectic groups of other travelers,” the COO said. “Frienzy would have allowed me to stay in touch with everyone easily, collaborate and coordinate future travels, and also see into where others were traveling. Who knows, maybe I’d want to join in the fun!”

On his next trip, there’ll be an app for that.

The Frienzy app is available to download from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. For more, you can check out Frienzy’s website.

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