The CEO and cofounder of Houseparty is on a mission to make social media a more authentic experience.

By Caroline Biggs
November 17, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Houseparty

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Virtual app Houseparty is currently all the rage in the video chat world, and it's not hard to see why. "Houseparty is a face to face social network," says cofounder Sima Sistani. "Unlike other social media, which has become polarizing or a highlight reel, Houseparty is all about making authentic connections through video chat with your friends and family."

And in the age of coronavirus, Sistani says online communication has never been more important. "There has never been a time when we've been more physically apart than today, but that doesn't mean we can't stay meaningfully connected," she explains. "It is easy to interact with a newsfeed, but it doesn't give you the same type of joy as communicating face to face through video."

Her Inspiration

Sistani cofounded Houseparty in 2016 with a mission to bring empathy to online communication. "Video chat obviously existed already, but unlike other apps, we attached video chat to a friend graph," she says. "You decide who your group is in advance and can quickly open up the app to start a video conversation with your closest friends and family."

She also believes the app offers a more organic way for loved ones to connect. "Friends can just hop in and say 'hi' if available, and there's no pressure to 'call' back," she explains. "With Houseparty, we wanted to create a positive social experience based on small friend groups, returning to a medium that promotes empathy and playfulness."

Accepting Virtual as the New Normal

Between the pandemic and all of the advancements in video technology, Sistani says virtual communication will only continue to grow in popularity over time. "I think people have a new need and desire to stay connected to friends and family that they have never had before, and for many, the easiest way to ensure they stay connected is through virtual communication," she says. "It is definitely becoming a part of our everyday life and I think that is a positive thing—the more we can stay connected, the better."

Creating More Meaningful Online Interactions

Sistani believes that the best social media interactions are ones with face-to-face participation, and more specifically, the authenticity it brings to the experience. "People are constantly looking at their devices, getting lost in newsfeeds, but not connecting in a meaningful way," she explains. "Houseparty has games, like trivia, karaoke, and Uno, so you can celebrate birthdays, wine night, or other fun things you like to do with loved ones in person, when you're physically apart. You use social media, but you experience Houseparty."

Virtual Communication in the Time of Coronavirus Is Key

While virtual communication has long provided a way to stay in touch with loved ones, Sistani says it's become more important than ever during the pandemic. "This year in particular, the app became a lifeline for so many," she says. "Houseparty is being used for everything in 2020: baby showers, gender reveals, proposals, birthday parties, happy hours, and even to stay connected to loved ones who are sick or quarantined. People have been using Houseparty for years, but when they did not even have the option to see each other in person, they started using the app to replace those in person interactions."

On Looking Ahead

As we continue to hunker down at home and look for ways to stay connected with friends and family from afar, Sistani believes Houseparty will remain a positive social media tool for users in the months ahead. "This year has been a challenging year for so many, and for us at Houseparty, it solidified our mission of why we founded the company in the first place: to be the most human way to be together when we are physically apart," she says.

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