University acquires student-run scheduling technology

By Nabeel Chollampat, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 13, 2015

The University has acquired Buzzn, a social networking application created by LSA senior Aashay Kumar and University alum Zakir Tyebjee, who graduated in 2014. The application allows students to upload their course and extracurricular schedules to find shared free time to meet up with friends.

Kumar said they created the app for exclusive use by University students.

“There’s obviously Facebook, but it wasn’t as exclusive to Michigan as we wanted it to be,” he said. “You couldn’t know your class schedule. We wanted to create something that would allow Michigan students to know when they’re free.”

Sean DeMonner, executive director of Teaching and Learning for Information and Technology Services, said buying the app in August constituted a valuable investment for the University.

“In the process, we concluded that there was some value that we were interested in learning from Aashay and Zakir,” he said. “How they had thought about this problem, how they had formulated a solution — we came to a conclusion to purchase the holdings of the company they had formed.”

Kumar and DeMonner declined to disclose the University’s purchase price.

The University is planning to add the application’s mechanisms to its CTools gateway pages, according to Kumar.

DeMonner said the University’s current online tools such as Wolverine Access and CTools don’t include modern social features, like Buzzn.

“We’re interested in trying to understand how students think about these features and capabilities, also seeing if we can apply those learnings to services available from the University," he said.

Kumar and Tyebjee have been friends since meeting during Welcome Week in 2012. Since neither originally knew much about coding, they outsourced the iPhone and Android beta test version of the application. After the beta launched in April 2013, the students hired two more developers that summer to create a more developed version, which launched in 2014.

The two had been in contact with Engineering Dean David Munson since they began working on the app.

“He’s always open to talking to students,” Kumar said. “He told us to just build it because that’s when we were going to see if this would be useful or not.”

Munson eventually brought the students’ idea to the University’s attention, resulting in a meeting between Kumar, Tyebjee and Laura Patterson, the University’s chief information officer.

After the University purchased the app, Kumar and Tyebjee shut down the iPhone and Android versions. DeMonner said the acquisition was part of an effort to learn more from the University’s students.

“We’re also trying to get better at interacting with the student body in general,” he said. “We’re trying to better understand how they think about technology, how they want to use technology, and trying to make sure that input is reflected in our services.”

Kumar said he and Tyebjee started to really work on the app when they realized the product could be useful to many students.

“We originally thought this was just our issue, but as we talked to more people, we realized that this could be useful for the general Michigan population,” he said.

For Kumar, the most useful part of the app is “Groups,” which allows people to make groups with their roommates or others — allowing the app to automatically show when everyone is busy.

LSA senior Alec Pinchak, who used the Buzzn mobile application before the University purchased it, said Buzzn was useful and easy to work with.

“I use it a lot to meet up with people I work with, as well as friends,” he said. “It’s really convenient and simple to use.”