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Joining the Party

Campus | April 7, 2014

Update: Since the publication of this article, WeParty has relaunched as “Evoqe.”

 

“What’s happening tonight?” is a question that is in every Tufts student’s repertoire. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always immediately clear.

Finally, there is a solution. WeParty, an app created by a team of four first-year Tufts students, is designed to explicitly list information about the various on- and off-campus events.

On Oct. 15th, students Denis Bravenec and Kofi Asante began the journey of making the WeParty vision a reality. The two envisioned the app as a commonly used problem solver, one that would answer the question “What’s happening tonight?” as best it could. The startup created a business plan and a mock up model of the app, which included various college events, parties, late night eating, and private events. Next came the search for coders. Bravenec describes the process as a vexing research project. They began by gathering as much information as they could about the world of app development, quickly learning that coders with free time were not easy to come by.

“We needed to find people who held as much passion for this idea as we did, people that would lose sleep over it,” Bravenec said.

And they did. Richard Kim and Jared Moskowitz rounded out the four-person team. Beginning with no knowledge of coding, the two freshmen went through many sleepless nights, collectively compiling a total of over 100 hours of coding and finishing an online ten-week Stanford course on app development in one night. With a completed team, the WeParty group set off in search of more information concerning the business side of this venture. According to Asante, in order to gain answers to questions you have not even considered, it is crucial to surround yourself with people with extensive expertise and knowledge in various fields. Enter Sharad Sagar, the team’s official advisor.

An exceptionally successful young entrepreneur from Patna, India, Sagar is the CEO of Dexterity Global Inc., which is listed among the hundred most innovative impact ventures of the 21st century by the Rockefeller Foundation. As the team’s official advisor, he has spent a surplus of hours consulting with WeParty about tactics, operations, and marketing, pointing the team in the right direction.

The next step was to create a prototype in order to troubleshoot the problems that the app could encounter. Bravenec describes the process as challenging, yet eye-opening.

“We came into this idea with the thought that people would actually be using it, but we didn’t know that for sure. We needed to test this somehow and attain results and numbers in order to determine the amount of usage,” says Bravenec.

The first  chance to test the app was during Rush Week, a time where fraternities and sororities held various recruitment events. With this opportunity in mind, Asante, Kim, Moskowitz, and Bravenec got permission from the Inter-Fraternity Council to post rush events on the app. The team kicked off the developing process over winter break. Although they were spread out from Texas to the Czech Republic, the team was able to ready the app for launch before the end of the break. And, without promotion or marketing of any kind, WeParty had a total of 350 downloads within the first few days of its release.

While results were favorable, the team faced a steep learning curve: the month of February was spent coding and finalizing documents in preparation for the official version. This edition would feature various public events, late night “Munchies,” and the personalized, private “MyEvents.” In order to keep the app personalized and exclusive to Tufts students, it requires users to input a Tufts email address.

After months of hard work and sleepless nights, WeParty was officially launched through the App Store on Mar. 27. The team has fostered relationships with approximately 45 on-campus student organizations that will be constantly updating the calendar with the events they will be hosting. Today, the app has reached over 600 active users, a number that is exponentially increasing.

With the goal of eventually expanding this venture to other schools in Boston, the team has begun marketing their outreach, partnering with restaurants and event management firms. They are currently signed on with five different restaurants, which offer an exclusive WeParty discount to the app’s users.

WeParty’s creators join the hardworking ranks of Tufts’ entrepreneurial thinkers; WeParty is the newest addition to the growing list of apps and businesses created by Tufts students at Tufts. With predecessors like Marko, PartyBus, and Spotted, WeParty is a direct result of the expanding entrepreneurial culture within Tufts. With its implementation of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program within the Gordon Institute, Tufts has opened doors into the start-up business world for its undergraduate students. The ELP curriculum is comprised of courses covering different aspects of entrepreneurship such as marketing, leadership, and finance–all necessary for future businessmen and businesswomen. Furthermore, the curriculum offers an opportunity for students to work personally with advisors to nurture their own venture ideas and strategies. To add to the program’s offerings, students now have access to a network encompassing Tufts alumni, student organizations, fellowships, and competitions, all focused on entrepreneurial activities. While none of the WeParty members took any courses in ELP, they do believe that there is a growing entrepreneurial community and spirit on campus. And, with student-fueled apps like WeParty in the works, Tufts is on the path to becoming a hub for innovative business opportunities.

Distinct, student-run creations are proof of the fervent inventive community that characterizes Tufts–one that brings ideas to life. Thanks to apps like WeParty, the everyday questions we ask like, “What’s going on tonight?” will become less frequently voiced, and instead uploaded, swiped, and shared.