by Alexandra Erath, A16
This article is the first of a two-part series focusing on Tufts students developing smartphone apps.
The surge in smartphone use and demand for mobile apps has lead
to an unprecedented number of students developing and marketing apps
for mobile devices. What's fueling student interest in launching
apps? "College campuses are full of energetic, enthusiastic and
smart people in an almost ‘closed system' that helps students
connect," says Josh Wiesman, a lecturer in Tufts Gordon Institute's
Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies (ELS) program. Instant feedback
also facilitates app development. "A group of students can quickly
distribute their app to 30 or 40 people for testing, people who are
likely to fit the demographic of their target customers," says Wiesman.
Two such apps launched by Tufts students this year are Piinch, which facilitates student meet-ups, and SpotLight Parking, an app that eases the struggles of urban parking.
Tanay Modi, A17, a sophomore economics major, is CEO of
location-based social platform that facilitates student meet-ups. Modi, who hails from New York, Delhi, and London, came up with the
idea for Piinch during his first year at Tufts, when he noticed
there were many repetitive logistical questions in a group phone
message chain with his friends.
"I knew there had to be a way to fix this," Modi recalls. "And then I thought of an app that could tell your friends where you are and show them where you'll be on a map." After talking with friends who had experience with computing, and receiving positive feedback on both the premise and the feasibility of such an app, Modi decided to pursue his idea. They named the app Piinch, Modi, says, "because it sounds familiar, and could be used as a verb such as 'I'll Piinch you later', but the double "I" gives us a proprietary name."
In the spring of 2014, Modi posted an ad seeking student mobile
developers on campus message boards and began interviewing potential
candidates. Above all, he was looking for passion; Modi believes
that along with skill, dedication is essential for success. Ariel Luque, E17, and Daniel Baigel, A17, were
enthusiastic" about the project and joined the team.
The trio devoted the summer of 2014 to developing Piinch. Luque and Baigel continued programming until February 2015, when the team submitted Piinch to Apple for consideration for inclusion in the Apple exclusive app store.
Along with the coursework, Modi says his classmates motivated him. "There were so many people doing so many other cool things that it just motivated me further," adds Modi. He points to the value of his courses in Entrepreneurial Leadership In High Technology (ELS 101.03) taught by Josh Wiesman, and his Independent Study with Associate Dean, Executive Director, and Professor of the Practice Mark Ranalli of the Gordon Institute.
"It was back and forth for a while," Luque says of the Apple approval process. "There are things we just hadn't thought of at first, like including a user agreement or a way of rejecting inappropriate photos."
In September 2013, Mike Miele, A15, pitched his idea for an on-demand parking app to his peers on the first day of his Entrepreneurship and Business Planning class (ELS 101), an ELS course taught by Lecturer David Greenwald. After hearing Miele's class presentation, classmates Karan Singhal, E15 and, Joseph Price, A00, were eager to get involved.
Today, Miele is founder and CEO of SpotLight Parking, an app that connects drivers to valets who will park their vehicles in Boston. Singhal is SpotLight's Chief Technological Officer, and Price, a Tufts alumnus who returned to take a few entrepreneurship classes, is the company's Chief Operating Officer.
Miele dreamed up SpotLight during a frustrating parking search in Boston almost two years ago, while driving to a Red Sox game with his mother. "We couldn't find a parking spot, and my mother said ‘I wish I could just pull over, throw someone my keys, and be done with it!'" Miele says. At that point, Miele says, "A light bulb went off."
"Until now, valets have been using paper tickets and cash, which is just not something you do in the 21st century," Miele explains. By digitizing the process and providing an excellent user experience, says Miele, "we've made an awesome app."