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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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StatusOwl app aims to keep partiers up-to-date

By Hillary Crawford, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 4, 2014

StatusOwl, a new iOS application launched by two University graduates last week, is working to change the way people party.

Students can use the app to both post and follow real-time updates on private and public venues in the area. In addition to posting statuses, users can rate drinking establishments on entry line length and occupancy level. Currently, 40 local bars are searchable on the app. To gauge each post’s accuracy, “up” and “down” buttons appear so that others can agree or disagree with the current status assigned to a particular establishment.

The app also syncs with Facebook, making it easier to share private events like house parties only with friends. Users also have the option to send friend requests through the app.

StatusOwl’s founders include University alums Aakash Jobanputra and Samir Thanedar, and Engineering senior Asif Aziz, who was also responsible for developing and producing the social media platform from scratch.

“We’re a real time guide for night life,” Jobanputra said. “Everyone can go on StatusOwl and see what’s going on and honestly make better decisions about where they’re trying to go.”

The idea for StatusOwl was born on a wintry night, shortly after local authorities shut down a fraternity party. Not wanting to risk a walk in the cold to get to another party that wasn’t a sure bet, Jobanputra and Thanedar said they wished they had live updates of the campus’ goings-on, apart from Facebook event pages that remained relatively static.

As graduates, Jobanputra and Thanedar are working on their project full time. Aziz has also pushed StatusOwl to the forefront of his priorities and is taking a semester off to help launch the product.

“Ever since we’ve switched to being graduates, we’ve been working full time and I think our mindset really shifted after we graduated,” Thanedar said. “We have one shot at this kind of thing.”

Creating partnerships with public venues is the backbone of the app’s revenue model. So far, StatusOwl has partnered with seventeen bars in Ann Arbor’s downtown nightlife circuit. The app acts as a marketing platform for these bars, but could also help students save money on drinks and win perks. Last Wednesday, Good Time Charley’s offered double the prize money to app users who won trivia rounds.

StatusOwl also shares drink specials that are created by bars to attract students earlier in the night.

“If a certain bar usually gets packed by 10 p.m., we want to help them get packed by 9 p.m. by adding a live advertisement to people,” Thanedar said.

The founders were particularly proud of the fact that the app crowdsources its information.

“All the students together have ownership and can make it work together,” Jobanputra said. “It’s not me that’s going to make this app successful, it’s everyone on campus.”

As part of this collaborative outlook, Jobanputra and Thanedar plan to organize community events in order to give back to various charities.

A few hundred students have downloaded the app on their smartphones, but the founders said they are working with Greek Life members to drive more users to the product.

The founders made an agreement with the social chairs of various fraternities where StatusOwl will provide a free rush banner and promotional events in exchange for the fraternities using the app to advertise their parties.

Delta Tau Delta, whose senior house displays a StatusOwl banner, is one fraternity that is working closely with the startup. Engineering senior Peter Lind, a DTD brother, said he has seen many of his friends using the app.

“The app is really functional and it has a lot of potential for Ann Arbor or any campus,” Lind said. “I use it all the time.”

Jobanputra and Thanedar hope StatusOwl will spread to other Big Ten college campuses and also catch on with young professionals who have moved on past their college days, but still enjoy hitting the town.