Otago student's app attracts US interest

Otago University student Scout Lin (23) holds  a smartphone running a social networking application she helped create. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Otago University student Scout Lin (23) holds a smartphone running a social networking application she helped create. Photo by Craig Baxter.

A social networking application created by a University of Otago student has attracted the interest of a United States start-up incubator founded by former Google employees.

The smartphone application, called Keen, allows users to create and find spontaneous activities - such as going for a coffee or playing a game of rugby - and was launched exclusively to Otago University students at the start of summer school this year.

Masters student in genetics Scout Lin (23), who was one of three to create the application, said it had already attracted about 130 users.

It had also attracted interest from possible investors and the two other developers - from Auckland and Wellington - had an interview with United States start-up incubator AngelPad - founded by ex-Google employees - two weeks ago.

''It was kind of a big deal, because [only 2%] of people get into the interview stage.''

While they were unsuccessful this time, they were invited to apply again for the next round.

Ms Lin said the application, for Android and iOS users, gave them a ''flexible'' way of creating real-world activities.

''If you just want a coffee catch-up, or you just want to, for example, spontaneously climb a tree ... you normally don't want to broadcast that on websites like Facebook, where it either gets ignored or people don't take you seriously.''

The plan was to eventually launch it at other New Zealand universities and take it global if it proved successful here.

Fellow developer and keen squash player Peter Chen came up with the initial idea after lamenting the fact few of his friends played squash and thinking about ways he could connect and organise games.

A big factor in whether the application was a success was whether Otago University students took it up, Ms Lin said.

''We need traction to prove that we are worth being invested in or we are worth being mentored.''

She believed the application was good enough to become a hit and early users had praised the concept.

''Ideally, it would be the go-to thing for people to use for creating spontaneous activities and hopefully create lots of communities and people passionate about certain [activities].''

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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