Peeing in New York is hard sometimes. You’ve been drinking, and you figure, “Hell, I can wait till I get home,” and then the subway doesn’t come for 30 minutes and by the time you reach your apartment it’s already too late. Not that that ever happened to us, or anything.
Or you’re out running errands and that large iced coffee proves to be a bad idea, and every Starbucks bathroom has a line out the door and you have bags in your hands and it’s not dark out so you can’t resort to going behind a parked car or Dumpster in an alley somewhere. Again, not that we would ever.
Two Brooklyn women, Deanna McDonald and Hillary Young, have come up with an idea for an iPhone app called CLOO that would allow users to rent out their bathrooms to parties in need around the city. We called Young yesterday for an interview about the proposed startup, which has yet to be developed:
Runnin’ Scared: How did the idea for CLOO come about?
Young: I moved here 6 months ago. I found that as I was exploring the city and doing things, it’s hard to find a public bathroom that’s not filthy and doesn’t have a line. Especially at Starbucks, which is where people go, and even then sometimes they don’t have bathrooms. We thought it was time for a change. We’ve been looking and doing research and we found that the city has been trying to solve the problem. They’re trying to add more loos but it doesn’t last long because the population is always growing. that’s how the idea for CLOO started.
Some people have described it as AirBnB for toilets. We were trying to figure out how we could put more bathrooms in these urban cities that are easily accessible for everyone. For example, the city has an awesome structure of bathrooms in Times Square, but if you’re 20 minutes north, it’s kind of a hike to go to the loo. Everyone on the planet has a bathroom at home that’s just for themselves — it’s kind of selfish when you think about it! You could share it with others who need it.
Would it cost money to use it?
Not to join. To join you would just go to the website, which hasn’t been built yet, and create a profile. CLOO would connect to your social networks. The price of the loo is set through the people opening their homes. It’s a token-like system. You use the bathroom, then bump phones to pass payment to the host.
Will it only be for iPhones?
Yeah, just for iPhones. It’s just easier to develop at the initial phases.
What’s the status of CLOO right now?
We’re trying to get initial funding to finish our prototype and initial backing to turn it into something major. We would start in New York. We’ll be hiring programmers. We’re on the lookout for talented developers who are passionate. Deanna and I both have design backgrounds, so we lack the technical skills to get it out there.
Aren’t you worried that people will think it’s a little weird to go use someone’s random bathroom?
For sure — that’s one of the common comments that we get. “Why would I want to go into a stranger’s bathroom?” But it’s not anything different from Couch Surfing or Airbnb. If you really want to get specific it’s less intense than Airbnb, where you’re actually staying in someone’s house.
CLOO is not gonna be for everyone. We’ve gotten great feedback and some hilariously rough feedback.
Will you help maintain the bathrooms that people are using?
Basically as an incentive for hosts we’ll do brand partnerships, like with Charmin, or Method, or even a brand like Target, and we’ll stock the host’s bathrooms with their products. As a brand, CLOO is really appealing because it’s a brand new advertising platform. You guarantee that the product will be used.
What’s your worst experience with really having to pee and not finding a bathroom in New York?
I would say coming back from a bar in the Lower East Side at 2 a.m., and I live in Bed-Stuy. You know the F will be insanely slow, and first of all not being able to find a bathroom in the 20 minute walk to the train — and then you’re on the subway for an hour. If CLOO existed I could have seen whether people had their bathrooms open.
Do you think it will appeal more to women than men? Since guys are more used to finding places outside…
They’re so lucky, I’m jealous. Yeah, I think this will appeal to a lot of women.
What’s the timeline for CLOO?
Ideally if we could find a programmer and some solid funding we could get our prototype out by the end of the year and start testing it in New York and seeing where that could take us. We’re thinking New York and San Francisco to start, then seeing how it goes and maybe taking it all over the U.S.