It’s not too late for some summer loving. A new dating app called Desti has launched in Austin and it aims to help singles explore the city.
The app works by having people build a profile and then select three different “desties,” which are places or activities that the user wants to go to. That way, when you’re swiping, you’re replying about a potential outing rather than simply liking a person.
COO Nick Dominguez said the app came about by brainstorming with founder John Taylor about some of the problems with the dating apps already available. The team brought on one of the designers at Hinge who explained the roadblock for getting virtual matches to meet in person.
“She said, imagine a woman in the middle of a room surrounded by 200 guys at the same time. They all come up to her and say, ‘Hey, what's up? How are you?’” Dominguez said. “200 strangers at once trying to have small talk with you, it turns into white noise. So we were like, how can we change that user experience?”
The answer to that is by making something that can appeal to the next generation. Dominguez talked about witnessing social media being repositioned for its audiences like with Myspace’s popularity transitioning to Facebook then to Instagram. With TikTok gaining traction as a way to discover and see reviews of places over other modes like Yelp, an interface that’s heavy on video made sense.
“We know short-form video is the future. It's just what people expect,” Dominguez said. “Every other dating app is more or less the same as far as the mechanism of showing people here's everyone around you, swipe through. For us, it starts with a destination, with where you want to go. So it is a completely different orientation of a dating app than anything else that exists.”
The team also sees their differences from the others in the opportunity they have to monetize, though they declined to disclose what that model will look like. Still, they say they’re prepared to scale quickly. Over the weekend, Desti had a launch party at the Belmont and is considering which markets they’ll enter next.
And it’s not just dating. If you’re looking to make new friends around Austin, this app could help. Using Besti mode, people can plan meetups with other users. Forming bonds outside of dating is an idea the team liked, particularly for a city like Austin that’s drawn in many transplants.
It’s features like this that make the team excited for the future of the app.
“Desti is poised to not just be a dating app,” Dominguez said. “The name is really about destinations. That's the center of our value proposition is around that short-form content. So we'll definitely lean into that quite a bit.”
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After more than 7,200 miles, 120 hours in the car and spending $12,000 on food, gas and airfare, Austinite Peter McConville now holds the world record for fastest visit to all 50 states.
McConville, along with friends Pasha Krechetov and Abdullahi Salah, completed the trip in five days, 13 hours and 10 minutes for his YouTube channel. The previous record, five days, 16 hours and 20 minutes, was held by Thomas Cannon and Justin Morris.
The trio started in Vermont on May 13, snaked through the continental U.S., hopped on a plane from Washington to Alaska, then Alaska to Hawaii, completing the trip to a round of applause on the plane for breaking the record.
“It finally started to hit me that not only were we really going to break this, but even with all the tiredness and the discomfort, this is definitely one of the best experiences that I have ever had,” McConville said in the video.
Their trip will not be recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records, as McConville explained that cannonball runs are no longer accepted for being “too dangerous” in 1996. The group’s achievement will be recorded by the All Fifty States Club.
Along the way, they visited landmarks like Times Square, Mount Rushmore, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate a.k.a. the “Bean” in Chicago, Bonneville Salt Flat and the Grand Canyon.
However, the rest of their trip was spent cutting bathroom, food and gas breaks to as short as possible. The trio was only able to shower once during the entire journey to make it.
After taking home the gold, McConville and his friends spent two days living the island life before heading back home.
"This is by far the hardest, craziest video I've done," McConville said. "I've always wanted to break a world record."
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Matias Segura swept his hand across a whiteboard in his office at AISD headquarters, describing how an entrance vestibule works. It might remind you of a sally port at a prison. The vestibule is designed to protect our children from the active shooters who have plagued our nation since Columbine in 1999.
“You start with the signage,” he said. “You know exactly where the entrance is, and that’s for first responders too. We really want to make sure we keep up with visitor patterns. If they come in, they go through a system. Driver’s license, background check, which takes about a minute. We have a software system.”
AISD Director of Operations Matias Segura explains the overall school construction and what the entry vestibule looks like. (Rich Oppel)
The vestibule has two sets of locked doors. The exterior set has an audio-visual intercom, operated by a desk officer who has a view of visitor parking, the building approach and the vestibule. If allowed in, a visitor is buzzed through and then faces questioning and clearance by the desk officer. The visitor is given a card-reader pass. If a second person attempts to “trail in” behind another visitor, he is trapped in the vestibule until his status is determined. The second set of doors, into the main school building, remains locked and shut. It is open when students arrive in the morning.
Thus, the days of walking into the school, maybe waving at the principal’s executive assistant and strolling off to the cafeteria for lunch with your daughter are gone, a relic of a more bucolic time when “active shooters” were never imagined. But one must ask, what do we give up for greater safety?
Austinites remembered the Uvalde shooting victims in a vigil at the Texas Capitol in May. (Tony Fuentes)
Some critics argue that we are at risk of losing traditional values in the redesign of schools, courthouses, hospitals, churches and shopping centers. Writing in The Washington Post, architecture critic Philip Kennicott said the nation’s gun culture “threatens an essential precondition for democracy: its public space… Ideals of openness, flow, transparency and access will no longer be sustainable.”
Segura contemplates the question. At 41, he has held his job as AISD director of operations for four and a half years. Prior to that he was a consultant who led the team to build Austin’s new courthouse. His Austin and Texas roots are deep. He was born here, graduated from Bowie High, and went off to Lubbock to earn a degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech. He returned to secure an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Joy Burson-Segura have two daughters who attend AISD schools. Segura said he and his operations team love AISD, care deeply about their work, and want citizens “to see us as partners.”
Back to what we lose in hardening the schools.
Segura says, “We think about students’ health. Having daylight, bringing light into a hardened facility, being able to access outdoor learning areas, (which is) hypercritical, especially in what we have learned in the pandemic.” Segura doesn’t like the idea of moats around schools (exotic, expensive) nor of classroom bomb shelters (what would teachers and students think about their looming presence?), efforts that are being tried elsewhere.
Healthcare workers receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the AISD Performing Arts Center in Mueller in 2021. (Jordan Vonderhaar)
AISD must juggle school security with the historic use of our schools for other purposes, such as voting, PTA-PTO meetings, community fairs, and, more recently, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food distribution. AISD does not want to end those uses, so the challenge is to design schools with separate rooms or places for those uses.
Clearly, Segura has thought about balancing conflicting equities. For him, it’s not all locked doors and blank brick or concrete walls. He stresses the importance of building a culture that includes shared responsibility of all school employees where, for example, a custodian could ask a stranger whether they have a visitor’s badge. All staffers should be well-trained in security measures, knowledgeable about new technology, and committed to working as a team to protect students, teachers and others. “We are working very, very hard on the culture,” he says. “Also, we need (financial) investment if we are going to move the needle.”
Kennicott, the Washington Post critic, quotes the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and New York Democrat, who said, “Architecture is inescapably a political art, and it reports faithfully for ages to come what the political values of a particular era were. Surely, ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in darkness.”
But that was in 2001. What messages will Austin’s new public schools convey to future generations about our 2021 political values?
“First and foremost, these are education spaces that belong to our community. Our objective is to create incredible learning experiences for our students and at the same time ensure that the students and staff are safe.” He said he wants people to view schools as “inspired,” places where they would want to send their children. “Great things are happening in that space,” and that teachers see a place where they want to work and where they feel safe.
Voters in AISD will decide Nov. 8 on a $2.44 billion bond package to provide “funding for improvements to enhance safety, centers on equity, benefits every campus, and addresses affordability,” according to AISD officials.