Though the parents and grandparents of today’s young adults often complain that the rise of the internet has led to a generation of people who would rather stare at their phones while at the dinner table than converse, a new app looking to help people connect seems to pop up every day.
A startup coming out of UNSW is another doing just that: Meetisan has created UNSW Social, an app that helps students on campus connect through shared interests listed on their profiles. Similar to apps like YikYak, Meetisan works through geo-location: it finds people who are in close proximity, hoping to encourage them to meet up in person.
This makes it handy for a uni campus, with users able to find study buddies, collaborators, or new friends within a relatively small pool of people – it’s less intimidating than posting a call out to the entire internet on Twitter, and less time consuming than putting up posters around campus asking people to call or email you if they’re interested in your project.
Hua Fan, founder and managing director of Meetisan, said the idea for the app originally came from a party a couple of PhD students threw.
“We had a lot of crazy ideas, like we should have this and should have that, but we didn’t know how to realise them. Often you have a lot of great ideas and you want to create them, but you need more than one person to do it,” Fan said.
“When you want to build a website, you need to have a designer, you need to have a software engineer, and someone who understands the market. But bringing people who have common interests and different skills together is difficult, especially if you don’t know who is interested in what.”
The startup began working on the idea two years ago for UNSW’s Startup Games. After being awarded an innovation grant from the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, they built an MVP and approached UNSW, who were interested in making the app available to students.
Meetisan then created the branded UNSW Social app, which is now available as both a separate app and as a module in UNSW’s Uni-verse app.
The team is now looking for investors and collaborators to help launch Meetisan as an app into the wider market.
Given that social media platforms and apps looking to help people connect for various reasons are a dime a dozen, Meetisan will have a tough road ahead. However, Fan believes that Meetisan’s core offering – face to face communication – is different to that of the big platforms like Facebook.
“We target and specialise in geo-location to find new people. Facebook cannot do that – they are good at finding people that you already know and have met. On LinkedIn, you will be introduced via colleagues, but for us, it’s about breaking the ice for total strangers and people who are valuable and high potential that could become friends or colleagues in the future,” Fan said.
“We believe that the best communication is face to face, in both the academic and business worlds.”