Are you ever sitting in your dorm room on a Friday night, wondering what the heck there is to do on campus? Sure, you could go check out the Mug, but then you risk having to trek all the way to Main and back if it ends up being a bust. If only there were a quick way to see which events are currently hot and which are definitely not.
Sule Marshall ’18 has set out to address this very issue through his app, Vybz. The creation of the app began the summer before Sule’s freshman year when he and his friend were discussing a different app that locates and rates restaurants in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago. Sule realized that the base ideas of this app could be refocused to better apply to the needs of the Trinbagonian youth. Just like students at Vassar, their interests lay more toward concerts, comedy shows and themed parties than expensive dining options. The app he imagined would notify his peers of events happening in close proximity with ratings to indicate, for example, whether or not the party is worth the walk. Originally entitled “Vibes” for the word used in Trinbagonian culture to describe the atmosphere at an event, his sister suggested he shift the spelling of the app, and thus, Vybz was born.
After months of hard work, creativity and programming focused on the development of Vybz, Sule launched the Beta version of his app at Vassar in March 2016 and then officially released the app to his hometown in the summer of 2016. After only a few months, the user count is already over 4,000.
Since the release, users have discovered new ways to take advantage of the tools and platform provided by Vybz. Sule said in an emailed statement, “The original idea was to make an app that you can open and be able to just know exactly what event or place to go to; however, when I launched in Trinidad, people also decided to use it to promote different things like free healthcare clinics from churches or daily lunch specials at restaurants.” Thus, the event app Sule originally imagined is now gradually evolving into a unique news source that provides something that Sule describes as “hyperlocal communication,” which specifically provides information relevant to the area of the app’s users.
This development shows that the demographic for Sule’s app is not restricted to teenagers looking for a good time, but instead includes community members of all ages looking to reach out for various purposes. Sule’s current goal for the year is to bring the app to more college campuses and to additional Caribbean countries.
You can download Vybz for Android and iOS. On the app, you can create your own events, judge events nearby based on the heat map, plan private events and comment on events.
Have you ever been in one of those annoying situations which entails the impossible task of trying to have a phone conversation over blaring music with a friend at an event to ask whether that event is worth attending? Vybz can save you the trouble of doing so since it allows you to chat with other users in the area including those already present at the event. It also facilitates easier decision making about where to go with your friends—thus saving friendships— through the private posts section. This section is where friends can have private conversations while monitoring activity at various events on the app and effortlessly plan their night. The more users there are, the greater the community and the more accurate the responses are.
In addition, Sule notes that the best way we can support Vybz is by simply using it and telling him what we do and do not like, as feedback is necessary to the developmental process. He added, “My friends here at Vassar have been really helpful. One friend Soso tells me every bug he finds; he found three today, actually.”
Not only can Vybz be a handy resource for students on campus, but it also serves as an illustration of innovational inspiration, a display of how an idea can be brought to fruition. What makes Sule’s case even more exemplary is his motivation behind the creation of the app, which is not only as a way to exercise his technological skills and interests, but also as a way to help his communities.
Achieving balance between extracurricular and academic pursuits as a Vassar student can be difficult. Nevertheless, Sule has a passion to keep his app going that drives his work. He admits, “I have a bad habit of working on Vybz during all my classes.”
When discussing how the perspective of younger generations influence technology, Sule said, “You’ll see a lot of startups dealing with student loans or climate change from our generation because those are the problems a lot of us face currently. In 5-10 years you’ll see different companies being built to tackle the next generation’s problems.”
In addition, Sule said, “You also need more than just age diversity [amongst technology developers]; you need diversity in racial, class and gender spheres or else, as it is now, not everyone’s problems will be addressed.”
Although developing an original app from the ground up seems like a daunting task, Sule ensures that you can too. While he had the advantage of being versed in a programming language similar to the one used in app development, he learned most of his skills during the process of building Vybz.
He relied on Googling the basics of iOS development, searching “how do I do ___” until he got the hang of it. Sule wanted to advise students who are considering starting a big project like building an app to just jump in. He said, “A lot of people talk about doing things and never actually start getting anything done. Once you start, you’ve done more than most people, and after that all you really need is perseverance.” Although, he recalls that there were times when he wanted to quit working on Vybz because it was so time consuming. Despite the time commitment, Sule concedes, it was worthwhile to make his dreams reality.