Higher Education and Technology

Kalamazoo College students launch Versapp platform

Anonymity is the key to a new thought-sharing social network.

August 8, 2014
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Users of a new social media application no longer have to worry about not having a second chance to make a first impression with its concept of anonymous interaction.

Versapp, a social media application combining anonymity and community, was developed by two Kalamazoo College computer science students and launched last month for the iOS platform with an Android version soon to follow.

Incorporating the overarching concept of anonymous interaction between friends and acquaintances, the social media platform features various ways to connect with others, including one-to-one chat, group chat, thoughts newsfeed and thought conversation.

Giancarlo Anemone, co-founder of Versapp LLC and the social media application, said the platform functions in a similar manner as other social media concepts with an applied context of anonymous interaction.

“We have two main features: messaging and a newsfeed we call ‘thoughts,’” said Anemone. “Those are both tied in with a friends list you have so it is very similar to other social media. … The difference is, whenever you communicate with anyone on your friends list, you do it in an anonymous way.”

Versapp allows users to send a message using the friends list to initiate a conversation while remaining unidentified using the one-to-one chat feature, or participate in a group message where the participants are known but the comments remain anonymous.

The newsfeed, or Thoughts Feed, enables individuals to view comments posted by other Versapp users whether they are immediate friends or international consumers. Using the newsfeed feature, a person can begin a conversation with the author of any thought on the friends feed, which will create an entirely separate dialogue from one started previously.

“It is an interesting way of allowing people to sort of start over, (which) you are unable to do in real life,” said Anemone. “The thing that I like to compare this to in real life is first impressions. You can’t redo a first impression with someone; it happens once and you are stuck with that. With Versapp, you can have a new first impression with someone with every conversation that you start.”

The anonymous social media application originally developed as part of a school project that co-founders Anemone and Will Guedes were working on for an application development course. Because of the small size of the college, anonymity and breaking free of preconceived notions about an individual was difficult, according to Anemone.

“Kalamazoo College is a very small school. Everyone knows everyone, so there is no way of breaking free from your identity at all and we wanted to develop a way to do that within an application,” said Anemone.

After approximately 10 months of developing the application, Versapp recently hit the general consumer market with the launch of the iOS version. Noting the development process is a continuous project, Guedes said most of the initial costs associated with the creation of the app were very low.

“As we realized the app was beyond what we first imagined, we started to put on some costs that were more associated with expanding: making sure we have a reliable service and a very scalable service, as well,” said Guedes. “Once we realized the potential of the application, in order to support the user base that we are expecting, we need to pay for more reliable servers.”

Some of the initial development and continuing costs associated with Versapp include: utility costs for electricity, services purchased from providers specializing in the platforms needed, security and marketing.

Hornet Angels LLC, an angel investor firm, partnered with Versapp to provide financial and business operations support to enable the growth of the company. Trevor Hough, principal at Hornet Angels and treasurer at the Hough Foundation, said while Guedes and Anemone are the co-founders of Versapp, the external financial support is where he comes in.

“I was brought into Versapp to provide financial support along with mentoring, business relationships and overall guidance to help get Versapp from more of a thought and concept to a viable business solution,” said Hough. “I partnered my angel investing firm with Versapp LLC to take it to the next level and hopefully ensure that Will and Giancarlo are successful in all their endeavors.”

As the co-founders work on tweaking the iOS version based on consumer and user feedback, the team also is working on the release of an Android version and pursuing potential opportunities to expand the company.

“Right now, as we just launched a few weeks ago, we have a massive amount of feedback coming from users,” said Guedes. “Focus on feedback and really model Versapp based on what users want, what is the best for the users — that is one of our short-term goals.”

Looking ahead at longer-term goals, Anemone said there are many features and avenues the team can pursue, including international expansion and incorporating the concept into the workplace.

“We have looked into trying to get Versapp involved in the workplace, allowing for anonymous conversations about giving feedback to employees, giving feedback to managers, and providing a way that employees can communicate anonymously in a way that they feel safe,” said Anemone. “There are an enormous amount of avenues that we could approach.”

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