Two Princeton University seniors are looking to change how friendships evolve on college campuses.
Vaidhy Murti and Michael Pinsky launched the social networking website Friendsy in 2013 to offer students a better way to connect with fellow classmates. With a host of new schools added this semester, the platform is pickup up some serious steam and now has about 20,000 users at 40 different colleges, resulting in almost 200,000 mutual connections made.
Friendsy gives users the option to choose their interest in another person in three different ways — friendship, hook up or date.
“I think at the end of the day it is sort of a conversation starter,” says Chandler Keller, a student representative for Friendsy at Colgate University. “Whether they push friend or hookup — it can lead to something.”
Friendsy blossomed after Murti and Pinsky happened to sit down at the student center together to watch a New York Yankees game. They eventually became good friends.
“You have all these acquaintances on campus, you run into someone or you meet someone new and you say ‘we will grab a meal together,’ but it never really happens, “Pinsky said. So we kinda wanted to give people an easier way to branch out of their social circles a little more and take more advantage of all the amazing people on your campus.”
As their number of users increased, the pair developed iPhone and Android apps and created a campus representative program to help market the product.
Although Friendsy combines various elements from other social media applications like Tinder, Facebook and YikYak, Murti and Pinsky believe that requiring an .edu email address to create a profile — as well as monitoring of anonymous comments — set them apart.
“We feel like the .edu closed network has advantages,” Murti said. “Every single person in your Friendsy account is a real-life verified person that goes to your school — there are no randos. That really gives us a security blanket.”
University of Michigan sophomore Lindsey Sholes said she was a little reluctant to try Friendsy after she received an e-mail stating that someone had interest in her and wanted her to join, but ended up giving it shot.
“I have noticed it is similar to Tinder but it is more complicated. There is a lot more to it,” Sholes says. “You kinda have to guess a lot of things to match with someone, where with Tinder if you like someone and they like you its a match. With Friendsy you have to send clues and guess who likes you. I definitely feel like Friendsy is a little safer because it is more like a peer group than Tinder.”
Keller believes that students are really reacting to the campus secure aspect of the app, especially at smaller schools where many people are already familiar with fellow classmates.
“I have been surprised to see how quickly it caught on,” says Keller. “When I go on it, all I see is Colgate kids. It’s fun to be on a social network were you are only interacting with people you know personally.”
That’s what the founders intended.
“Our goal of Friendsy is to go back to the roots of what made Facebook once successful —and that’s to put the college social scene online. Where everything you do and everything you see is very much relevant to your day to day life,” Murti says.
Another unique aspect of Friendsy is the “murmur feed,” where people can post anonymous compliments things they may have overheard on campus. Murti and Pinsky take pride in the fact that they monitor all anonymous comments posted.
“One thing that is important about this feed is that we monitor all of the anonymous content. So a lot of our competitions (Yik Yak, Whisper, Secret) allow you to post anything and it can often be very abusive,” Murti says
The pair got off the ground with money raised through crowdfunding site Indiegogo and participated in Princeton’s eLab program this summer. Just this week the pair secured a deal investors that fund them for at least the next six months.
Both Murti and Pinsky refer to Friendsy as their baby and say they have loved being able to work so hard on something they are passionate about, even if it is extremely time consuming.
“Someone wrote to us a couple months ago ‘I think I found my soulmate through your service’” Pinsky says. “That’s unbelievable. That is like as much you could possibly ask for from an app, so I think that is incredibly powerful and that’s way I love doing this — we are actually making people happier.”