“Anyone have any hot stock tips for a new investor?” “Oath Pizza is handing out slices outside their store in Fenway.” “A little rain and everyone is driving so slowly. Going to be impossible to get around Boston when it starts snowing!”
These questions, comments, and quasi-raves are among the most recent posts on BuzzLoop, a location-based mobile app enabling users to connect with their local communities.
It’s the brainchild of Jamie Gullbrand, DMSB’16, and Mansoor Pervaiz, PhD’17, who launched the app for the Northeastern community earlier this month and have seen its user base grow precipitously over the past few weeks.
“We have to make sure we’re connecting with what the users want. We can build an app that we think is great, but it won’t mean much if users don’t find the same value.”
“Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn connect users with their friends or followers,” Gullbrand explained. “But our goal is to connect users with other locals to ask questions, get real-time information about events, or simply share what’s on their mind.”
Gullbrand and Pervaiz created BuzzLoop on their own, harnessing the skills they learned in class to design and promote the one-of-a-kind app. Gullbrand, a recent alumnus of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business who now works as an independent consultant, caught the entrepreneurship bug after taking a few entry-level business courses. “Right away,” he said, “I knew I wanted to start my own business.” Pervaiz, a sixth-year doctoral student in the personal health informatics program, attributed his back-end development skills to his classwork in “Mobile Application Development” and “Human-Computer Interaction.”
To take BuzzLoop to the next level, the fledgling entrepreneurs tapped into Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. They connected with IDEA, which helped them create a business plan, and worked with the School of Law’s IP CO-LAB to file a trademark application. With IDEA’s help, they also formed working partnerships with two marketing courses this fall. Students in “Marketing Research” conducted focus groups and surveys on behalf of BuzzLoop, while those in “Advertising and Brand Promotion” helped them fine-tune their value proposition.
The survey results revealed that potential users want the option of uploading photos and perusing posts from their local community even when they’re out of town—two features that Gullbrand and Pervaiz are working to add to the app’s soon-to-be-released new version. “We have to make sure we’re connecting with what the users want,” said Gullbrand. “We can build an app that we think is great, but it won’t mean much if users don’t find the same value.”
Gullbrand and Pervaiz plan to expand the app’s reach to college campuses across the country, beginning with others in the Boston area. They’re also looking for funding to finance brand ambassador and referral programs aimed at spreading the app far and wide. Brand ambassadors, who will curate content for their given communities, will receive T-shirts and other perks for their volunteer efforts. As part of the referral program, users will receive a $5 Amazon gift card for every five people they convince to download the app.
“You can advertise to students, but it’s not nearly as effective as having a friend or colleague promote a product or service,” said Gullbrand, who noted that his long-term goal is to monetize BuzzLoop by contracting with local businesses that want to advertise on the app. “We’re hoping to spread BuzzLoop by word of mouth through both programs.”