Business & Tech, Features

Find your people with Popple: an app launched by BU students

Across the Charles River from where Mark Zuckerberg launched the ubiquitous Facebook, two Boston University students have embarked on a similar path by designing a platform that cultivates student connectivity.

After meeting at SPLASH when they were freshmen, Remi Chester and Prianna Sharan quickly began to notice the difficulty of making plans and finding friends as busy college students.

“We felt that the whole system of finding things to do on campus and joining clubs could have been made a lot easier,” said Sharan, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Remi Chester and Prianna Sharan. Chester and Sharan are the founders of Popple, a social media app to connect people. ISABELLA OLAND/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

Best friends and now business partners, Chester and Sharan turned the common complaint of boredom into the origin for creative innovation.

In January 2023, the pair founded Popple, a social networking platform that simplifies the process of connecting with others on campus.

“I made a joke about starting a company and then we were like, ‘Wait, we could actually do this,’” said Chester, a junior in Questrom School of Business.

Leveraging Sharan’s niche in app development and Chester’s in marketing, the pair of friends dove headfirst into bringing their concept to life.

“Where a lot of people are right now [is] on their phones,” Sharan said. “We want to build the first social media app to actually get you off of your phone and into the real world.”

The free app allows users to choose from a variety of nearby events or post their own activities for others to participate in. While the majority of the app’s users are from BU, anyone with an email address that ends with .edu can join.

Once users have confirmed their attendance to an activity, the app automatically forms a group chat with other users who are going to the activity. To provide an element of surprise, the profiles of the users attending each event aren’t revealed until the group is formed.

Chloe Kathuria, a junior in Questrom, took a chance on Popple when she was searching for a way to connect with people within the business school outside of the classroom.

After attending a finance event with around twenty other Popple users, Kathuria said she gained a lot of new friends and the motivation to go after a spot in one of BU’s professional business fraternities.

While Kathuria admitted to feeling nervous leading up to the event, she walked out thankful that she attended because she felt that “everyone just wanted to help each other.”

“If anybody is a little shy or scared to reach out or go out of their comfort zone, it’s a great way to see that the end results could be really beneficial personally and could help them with their major and also just meeting friends,” Kathuria said.

Celia Drury, a freshman in the College of Fine Arts, expressed interest in the ease that the platform offers in gathering like-minded individuals.

Popple Website. The app was partly inspired by declining mental health rates among college students and creates a low-stakes way to get students outside. KATE KOTLYAR/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

“I didn’t necessarily have that hard of a time making friends, but it was hard for me to find people with similar interests to me,” Drury said. “I definitely found [them] more second semester but it was harder because I had to work to find clubs.”

Beyond the goal of connecting users with events and other people, Popple manifests from the decline of mental health in college students that resulted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Something that we do in a lot of our pitches is talk about how much mental health rates and isolation rates have skyrocketed, even post-COVID,” Chester said. “That inspired Popple a lot because it’s a low-stakes way to get out.”

Siobhan Dullea, the executive director of Innovate@BU and one of Sharan and Chester’s mentors, said that she imagines the duo becoming “serial entrepreneurs.”

“They have a lot of extraordinary characteristics of other entrepreneurs, like intelligent, resilient, smart and scrappy,” Dullea said. “As nice and chill as they can be, they are forces.”

The founders expect the app will become available on the app store at the end of this month if it is approved. Once it reaches the app store, Sharan and Chester plan to implement a brand ambassador program for colleges across Boston.

“Our best memories are with other people in these communities,” Sharan said. “We just want to give everybody that chance to build communities in person.”

For now, Popple headquarters remains at the BUild Lab, but the sky’s the limit for this duo.

“We’re just talking at our last meeting about a Popple skyscraper,” Sharan said. “It’s going to be Popple fun forever.”

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