College Problems No Match for Apps
Student-created mobile tools bring the social scene to our fingertips
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 23:10
In an age when individuals are inseparable from their smartphones, mobile apps have virtually permeated every aspect of our lives — from Facebook to Snapchat, Fruit Ninja to Google Maps — but it is sometimes easy to forget that in addition to all the people using them, there are also teams behind the creation of the apps. Georgetown alumni among the latter have used their technological know-how to turn vision into reality.
Bobby Pinter (COL ’16) spent the summer working on his solo project, EventString, a mobile app that focuses on easier, more personalized time management and logistics planning. The app is still under development, but Pinter is aiming to launch it by December.
The Loop, created by Seun Oyewole (SFS ’14) and Keegan Carter (MSB ’14), is an event app that provides information about activities, both public and private, in the area so that college students will not fall out of the social loop. Their project was runner-up in the Commercial Track of the Hoya Challenge 2013, and the program is now available for free in the Apple App Store.
Catherine Cook (MSB ’11) is a co-founder of MeetMe, previously known as MyYearBook.com, a social networking app and associated website that enable users to make new friends. The app is immensely successful, and in 2011, was acquired by Quepasa for $100 million. The team of developers now consists of 100 people and is based in in New Hope, Penn. They are now working on another mobile app, Unsaid, for which details are still under wraps.
While the scale of teams and ventures differ and the ways they choose to reach their goals vary, many share a similar starting point.
“Initially, it was just like, we had a problem, and I think we have a solution, so how do we make it happen,” Carter said.
Although The Loop has been successful, Carter and Oyewole did not initially set out for profit.
“It’s not necessarily that we are doing it for the money. We are doing it to solve a problem, and in order to solve the problem we have to make money,” added Oyewole.
The two came up with the idea of The Loop in their sophomore year at Georgetown. It was inspired by a need to stay up to date on the college social scene and create a central location where people can find everything that is going on in D.C. as well as on campus.
“It all started off from wanting to know about all the parties.” Carter said. “There is always something going on, it’s just that you are not always aware of it.”
For Cook, MeetMe also began as a solution to a real problem. When MyYearBook.com first launched in 2005, she was only a high school student.
“My brother Dave and I were new in our high school in New Jersey. I was a sophomore, and he was a junior, and we were having some trouble making friends, so we got the idea to create a place for people to meet new people from their town,” Cook said. That simple idea eventually grew into a network with more than one million daily active users.
Pinter was inspired to create EventString when everybody was making travel plans around spring break of last year.
“You know when you are thinking of travelling [and] you have to make these gigantic mental calculations. And I just thought, isn’t there a better way to do it?” Pinter said. Keeping with this idea, he embarked on the long and often frustrating journey of bringing EventString to life.
Apart from a beginning computer science class in Georgetown, Pinter began the project without any prior app-creating experience. Fortunately, Apple provides ample support for aspiring app engineers.
“It was a very long growing process,” Pinter said. “I wanted to give up a lot. But it was something I really wanted to do, and by the time August was there, I thought, if I quit now, I would have done officially nothing for the summer, and I just couldn’t have that.”
Cook, Oyewole and Carter took a slightly different path in developing their projects. Cook and her brother cooperated closely first with a development team in Mumbai, India and later a team in the United States, both of which were responsible for the more technical, coding aspects of the job. Oyewole and Carter likewise partnered up with an IT company that Oyewole previously interned with, which helped them turn their idea into the actual app.
A crucial part of the success and growth of a mobile app startup lies in marketing. Carter and Oyewole have been cultivating students’ awareness of the brand in Georgetown, putting up stickers and promotional flyers for The Loop around campus to pique students’ curiosity about the brand. They have also organized a variety of events, including mini concerts and interactive activities. The Loop also co-hosted EAT2BEAT, a street carnival in D.C. that took place during the Smile Project last Saturday. They are hoping to expand their target users from Georgetown students alone to all college students in D.C. and eventually to other areas as well.