UVa Grad Joshua Anton and His “Drunken Man’s Toolkit”

In just a few short years, Joshua Anton has built an app with over 300,000 users and counting. Almost everyday it seems as if another major news outlet is covering his story and every week, thousands of new downloads help expand his user-base. He sat down to speak a little about his journey, challenges, hopes, and advice.

Courtesy of Joshua Anton
Courtesy of Joshua Anton

Joshua Anton decided long ago, while still attending Northern Virginia Community College, that he wanted
to be an entrepreneur. The only problem was that he didn’t have any idea what he wanted to do. Anton ended up transferring to UVa’s McIntire School of Commerce, hoping to find his calling. It didn’t take long. In fact, it was during the first weekend of his first semester in Charlottesville that Anton thought up “Drunk Mode,” an app that today has over 300,000 users.

As most students know, the first Saturday of every fall semester at UVa is known for “block party,” a welcome back extravaganza that kicks off each school year. Anton was excited for this first official UVa party as a student, but unfortunately, his night was marred by a drunken friend. The friend in question called him and “said things that she would not have said had she been sober,” according to Anton. This type of incident is far from rare. In fact, Anton discovered that most people have been on both the sending and receiving end of a regrettable drunk call or text. So Anton decided to try and do something about it. In April of 2013, after months of team assembly, research and development, he launched an app that allowed users to block certain contacts for a night spent drinking.

Initially, however, “Drunk Mode” was little more than a hobby for Josh and his developer. “It was just a project at the time. We had no idea that ‘Drunk Mode’ would turn in to what it has become today – or that I’d be working on it after college.”

Courtesy of The Huffington Post
Courtesy of The Huffington Post

A year later, however, with 10,000 users and huge features in the works, Anton decided to fully dedicate himself to his project. That month, April 2014, “Drunk Mode” went from 10,000 users to 25,000. The scope of the app increased hugely with “find my drunk,” a feature that allows users to relocate lost or separated drinking buddies. And growth didn’t stop there. Anton and his team released a third feature the following summer called “breadcrumbs.” Breadcrumbs uses geolocation to show a user their path of movement during a night of drinking, should they forget the next morning. By late October, these updates helped propel “Drunk Mode” to an astounding 90,000 users.

Courtesy of The Huffington Post

But unfortunately, the app didn’t work. It’s geo-location features inexplicably displayed users as being off of the coast of Africa. It had simply outgrown its limited technological infrastructure. So Josh Anton looked to more experienced professional developers to bring on board. He ended up consulting 17 professionals before reaching an agreement with Tony Lenzi, Drunk Mode’s current Chief Technological Officer. Lenzi ultimately joined Anton’s team because he was so impressed that faulty technology was able to attract over 90,000 users.

After $21,000 worth of much-needed redevelopment and the help of a new technical chief, the new and improved “Drunk Mode” really blew up. Today, just months later, it has reached over 300,000 users. Anton’s new technological team members range in age from 29-34 and are all highly qualified and experienced in order to keep up with such rapid growth (although he still occasionally enlists the help of students).

However, not everything came so easily. Anton told me that assembling this growing team has been the most difficult challenge that he has faced. While the technical members are mostly in their early thirties, no one on the business side of his operation his older than 24. But to Josh, this youth is not a problem at all. Every member was specially selected and each brings something new and unique to the table. He told me that without such an amazing team, Drunk Mode would not be what it is today. While it takes time and effort to find the right fit for a company, Josh stressed to me just how important it is to put in the effort to find the perfect person for every opening.

Today, Drunk Mode continues to grow at alarming rates. During the spring break boom, the app’s user-base was growing by more than 20,000 people a week. It was even featured by media giants such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, and even MTV. In addition, Anton and his team just released an exciting new feature called “find a ride.” “Find a ride” allows a user to not only locate a friend, but seamlessly get an Uber to their location. One simply taps the friend in question on Drunk Mode’s map, sees an estimated quote and easily is able to request a driver without having to figure out or input an address or destination.

Josh Anton, however, dreams of even bigger possibilities. In the long run, he told me that he wants Drunk Mode to evolve beyond just being a tool for late night drinkers. Instead, he wants it to turn into a “living map for everyday convenience.” For example, Josh envisions a social realm in which users can check the line at the local Starbucks before committing to the drive or walk there. For now, however, they are focused on validating current revenue models and continuing to attract new users and raise more capital. Both in the short term and the long term, the future looks bright though for Josh and his team.[pullquote] Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, and if you’re going to start a start-up, it isn’t a project that you do in school. You live, breath, and eat it. [/pullquote]

After sharing his story and his future goals, Josh let me in on a few tips he has for those looking to also become entrepreneurs. His most important advice?: “You have to keep on persevering.” Anton’s initial Indiegogo campaign to fundraise for Drunk Mode was a failure, but that didn’t stop him. He was similarly undeterred when media outlets were hesitant to cover his app. But instead of giving up, his team started sending between 25-40 emails a day to anyone and everyone that might pick up the story. He elaborated, saying, “Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, and if you’re going to start a start-up, it isn’t a project that you do in school. You live, breath, and eat it.”

Josh Anton definitely did “live, breath, and eat” Drunk Mode, and today that dedication is paying off. He has successfully built a “drunken man’s toolkit” and has plans for much bigger and better things to come.

This is part of HC Media’s series on Wahoowa Entrepreneurs, an independent nationwide network of entrepreneurial UVa alumni. 

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