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UCI Student Prepares Beta Launch for Socializing App ‘Down’

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Third year business administration student Kevin Kiet Le is planning the release of the beta version of his mobile app, Down, a platform for people to connect with others and meet up. 

“[Down] is a social media app that helps you find things to do and friends to do them with,” Le said. 

Users begin by answering questions about themselves to give others an impression of who they are. After completing their profile, users may publish an “event” under the app’s homepage, with details such as the date and location for a hangout. Other users may then request to join events they’re interested in. 

Down isn’t just for people looking to meet new friends; users can also use the app to find things to do with people they already know. 

“If you [are] just on our app [to use] with your friends, you can create a group chat with them on our app and our app will recommend events and hangouts,” Le said. “It can be other hangouts that were created by other users, or just our own in-app recommendations, which we call ‘blueprints.’ It’s definitely for people that need friends to go out with or just people that also need things to do. We’re trying to tailor it to both parties.”

As of now, the app is mainly being marketed toward students attending UCI, UC San Diego and Cal State Long Beach. 

“Those are the places we have the most sign-ups. It’s going to be those three schools, and then surrounding [radii] nearby one of those schools, but long-term, we want [Down] to be an ‘everybody’ type thing,” Le said. 

Le first conceptualized Down in late 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic when his three friends weren’t available to play pickup basketball with him. 

“I wanted to look for other people to go out with and play ball, [but] how do I do that? Do I DM someone on Instagram that I haven’t really talked to? That’s a little weird. Do I do that on Facebook? Snapchat? All of these [apps] are meant to be social media, but you have [people] as followers without really being that close with them,” Le said. 

Finding others outside of his existing friend group to hang out with proved to be difficult. Eventually, he found a solution to this problem by creating Down. 

“Asking someone for the first time that you’re talking to hang out is a little bit uncomfortable … There needs to be a solution [where] I can easily find people that are already ‘down’ to go out with me, that way I don’t have to go through the awkwardness of reaching out to someone and hoping they’re interested and available,” Le said. 

With the inspiration for Down in mind, Le then sought out help with the development side of the app from USC computer science and business administration student Anthony Nasser. Nasser, a former high school friend of Le’s, came on as both Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer. Together, the two recruited other team members from UCI and Cal State Long Beach. 

Third year literary journalism student and economics minor Stefan Jones served as a marketing intern since the beginning of Down. 

“Initially, we were working from ground zero. We had no content on our socials. The website that was created by the development team was still fairly new … Our goal was, ‘let’s get people aware of what this is.’ I helped co-create some of the content that is currently being produced on social media, [such as] Instagram and LinkedIn,” Jones said. 

Le also utilized resources offered at UCI, including the ANTrepreneur Center’s Experiencing Entrepreneurship program and the UCI Law team

“There is a startup small business clinic here at UCI that gives you pro bono law services. We’ve gotten help in terms of incorporation [and] writing our terms of services and privacy policies. We’ve also gotten some funding from the student startup fund in the past. We got that last year — people have just been really helpful in the business school,” Le said. 

As a first-time startup founder and app designer, Le found himself running into issues with deciding what to tackle first. 

“It was all of our first time starting a business — all of our first times starting an app. We partnered with students from Informatics 117 as their capstone project, and we did that with them the past spring. You kind of have this [idea] of how fast you want to go, then it’s really hard to do that unless you know the skillsets of the people that you’re working with … It’s a huge learning experience, and I would imagine there are going to be a lot more times where we screw up in the future being first-time founders,” Le said. 

The app was set to launch at the end of January, but Le and his team decided to push back the release date to this summer due to recent public health concerns. 

“People are already worried about safety. Safety is a huge part of our app. We wouldn’t want to have anything to do with people getting sick. Not only is it just not responsible to release right away — the omicron variant has also made it more difficult to release at the end of January … If omicron were to subside soon, we want to release this at the beginning of summer when everyone is free, out of school [and] ready to go. We want to be there to service them, help them go out and have fun,” Le said. 

Le and his team currently have a website where people can sign up early for the beta version of the app. The app is developed to be compatible with both Android and iOS products.  

“I’m most excited about actually using it because I feel like I’ve told the story of why I’ve wanted it to exist so many times now. It’s been almost two years now, so I forget it started because I had a problem myself,” Le said. 

Yuika Yoshida is a Campus News Staff Writer. She can be reached at yuikay@uci.edu.