With thousands of phone apps at your fingertips, one Texas A&M student has created an app designed to get people offline by geo-capturing and alerting two people with shared interests when they are near each other. Think of it as a variation on being alerted there’s a Charmander close by, but instead of capturing it, the Charmander joins you for a cup of coffee and conversation.
The Pokémon Go phenomenon proved people would leave their home for virtual adventure. Communication senior Adam Valenta is betting he’s figured out a way for college students to stop interacting virtually on Tinder and Bumble by showing them the actual path to a person who shares their interests. Instead of users meeting and talking through a dating app, Valenta’s app makes it easy to have face-to-face interactions.
“There is no actual meeting or communication through the app,” Valenta said. “Users have to be in the same geofence, then they are notified by the app when someone near them has a common interest.”
The application, called Plug, allows its users to upload a bio, interests and one image. The photo will be cross-referenced with a live user photo when an account is set up. Valentina said this feature prevents the online dating problem of catfishing.
“The algorithm we have in place will make sure that a 40-year-old grad student does not meet up with an 18-year-old,” Valenta said.
The idea for the app came to Valenta while binge-watching Netflix. Valenta told himself he came to A&M for a purpose, and he needed to make a difference.
“The original idea actually came about for myself,” Valenta said. “I will be sitting in a coffee shop and see someone across the way, and I want to have a conversation with them. But we all have a fear of getting rejected and a fear of ego. I figured that if I could create a process for myself to make it easier to walk up to people and have conversations with them, I could bottle it up, put it into a company and do it for other people as well.”
Valenta attributes his ability to create the app to his communication skills.
“I have a good understanding of technology and what it costs to develop, but I do not have the skill to code,” Valenta said. “I envision myself as a Steve Jobs, who had no technical experience whatsoever, but he was very good at communicating and forming teams to execute on ideas. Communication is useful in every area of business.”
Plug is not Valenta’s first business venture. After high school, Valenta started a car detailing business in Austin and his hometown of Temple. Eventually, Valenta attended Temple Community College before transferring to A&M.
The next step for Valenta will be finding a co-founder, a process he said is already underway. Plug should prelaunch at A&M in the next four to five months, Valenta said, with a beta pool of approximately 1,000 users. After the prelaunch, Valenta said he and his team will refine the app and then launch again, this time across the entire state.
“The ultimate goal Plug is to make a difference amongst the college population,” Valenta said. “I want to reenvision the way we are supposed to connect in real life.”
Valenta plans to move to Austin to continue to work on Plug with his co-founder after graduating from A&M in August.