Rutgers student creates "redesigned contacts app" for social media accounts
Austin Schlessinger, a Rutgers Business School sophomore, has designed an application that he said will revolutionize the way people connect with one another. The app, available only for iPhone, is called Napkn.
Schlessinger expects it to launch in November.
“I realized that the people that I connected with over multiple means of social media were the same people I reconnected with and the people that I had better relationships with,” he said. “At the end of my second semester, I was like, 'I can solve this issue ... This can be solved by creating a mobile application that allows you to share your social media, email and phone number in one tap.' ”
Napkn can be linked to the user's profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter and Snapchat, as well as with the user's phone number and email address. When a user wants to share their contact information with someone else, he or she selects which social network profiles they want the other to have access to.
The information can be shared wirelessly via the iPhone's Airdrop or with a QR code called a “Napcode.”
Without leaving the app, the user can view their contacts' social media profiles and recent posts, and can get in touch with them directly via phone call, Facetime, iMessage, email or Facebook Messenger.
Because Napkn unifies the diverse channels through which people now communicate, Schlessinger calls it “the redesigned contacts app.”
Napkn can help people to avoid some of the social awkwardness associated with connecting over social media, he said.
“One of the biggest struggles is that situation right there when you get someone's phone number at a party or something and you go back to your dorm, and you're like, 'Should I follow this person on Instagram? Is that weird? Should I friend them on Facebook? Where do they think that this relationship could go?'” Schlessinger said. “This solves that issue because you exchange that information at hand, as opposed to making those decisions later when the person isn't in front of you.”
As a business major, Schlessinger initially had no knowledge of the technology industry, and had to learn from scratch how to flesh out his idea, he said.
He said the development of an app involves two basic parts — the design of the user interface and the back-end programming. To save money, Schlessinger designed the user interface himself using a trial version of Adobe Illustrator.
“I learned how to work this program in a couple days and I pumped out the designs within like a week,” Schlessinger said. “I sent them off to a bunch of developers, got estimates and then I weeded all of them out and I found one that I ended up going with.”
The developer does all the programming work for which Schlessinger lacks the necessary skills. The developers work in two-week “sprints.” Every two weeks, they send him a working build of the app, and he provides feedback, he said.
“They gave me a video of them clicking through the sign-in page, and I was watching and I was like, 'Wow, this is actually coming to life,'” Schlessinger said. “I literally could not help but smile.”
Schlessinger said that he funded the first half of development himself by working odd jobs. The second half of development is being funded through a Kickstarter campaign, which began Sept. 1. His goal is to raise $5,000 by the end of the month.
As of Sept. 13, the project was halfway to funding its goal. He has also opened an account on Venmo for accepting donations.
Schlessinger said that he expects Napkn to be used by individuals, large businesses and organizations.
“For businesses and organizations that have hundreds of thousands, millions of followers, that's where I plan to monetize,” Schlessinger said. “This app is valuable, but it's much more valuable to someone who has an enormous social following.”
He also expects that it will be used by campus groups like clubs and greek organizations, and by employers.
“My mom is in recruiting, and I was like, 'How long does it take to compile all that information?'... and she said it takes forever,” Schlessinger said. “It doesn't need to be that difficult.”
Max Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum.