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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Two students found tech start-up, showcase newly-made app

Published: February 17, 2012
Section: News

Brandeisians are the type of people who color-code their closets and keep files in extremely complex subfolder systems. It’s little wonder then that two of them have invented a mobile organizing application.

Sahar Massachi M.A. ’12 and Adam Hughes ’12 will design and present the official app at the RootsCamp conference in Washington D.C. next week.

With his friends dispersing all across the country, Massachi said he realized that an app to make sense of who was where would be a great asset.

The app is a virtual business card that logs not only your contact information, like your telephone number, Twitter and e-mail, but logs your “home base,” where you hail from in a zoomable map. Contacts are marked on the map and more detailed information—like the circumstances under which you met them—can be input after clicking on them.

Massachi and Hughes describe what they do as “social entrepreneurship,” making the world a better place while at the same time building a for-profit company. Their fledgling Innermost Labs was founded in order to create “lasting activist networks at Brandeis University,” Hughes wrote in a blog post introducing the official app.

While “it isn’t like the app goes in and social justice comes out,” Hughes explained, it can help people achieve it. “Knowing who can do what across the country is an important part to developing new ideas, and during a conference, you meet so many people in such a short amount of time, and a day later, most of it is lost.”

The app was developed with a Brandeisian haste. In little more than a week Massachi and Hughes developed a program that works not only for alumni networks but also for conferences and campaigns. It’s for situations when you want to save a contact but a Facebook friend isn’t quite the answer: “I don’t care about their dog, but I do care about hanging out with them if we’re in the same city,” Massachi said.

“It can connect entrepreneurs and organizers, volunteers and campaigners, as well as alumni scattered across the globe. It facilitates everything from couch surfing to campaign organizing,” he added.

Hughes was first brought onto the project only to attend the conference by Massachi, a veteran of the practice. But the project quickly snowballed for him.

“I asked if he wanted to go to RootsCamp and then a few days after that, I was like ‘what if we did a start-up,’ and a few days after that, I was like ‘hey, what if we presented it at RootsCamp next week,’” Massachi said.

The RootsCamp organizers were impressed with the app from the start.

“They reacted with more enthusiasm than we can ever imagined and made it the official app of the conference,” Hughes said.

Massachi and Hughes will open the RootsCamp conference with an introduction of their app and then expand the discussion to broader topics.

The app will be open source and completely free for personal use. It aims to derive revenue from branded versions for companies—and conferences like RootsCamp—and preloaded conference guest lists.

Hughes believes that keeping the app free is essential to the mission of “progressive organizing,” and thus the mission of Innermost Labs.