June 01, 2012 by Julia Casciato
Senior Ari Winkleman led a team of students that created and developed Involvio, a website and mobile application that allows college students to find events on and around campus using social media.
Drexel was among a handful of schools that first had access to the Involvio app and has seen it expand over the last year. New schools are requesting to use Involvio’s unique services every day. Their goal for this academic year is to put the app into the hands of as many students as possible across the country and across the world. Involvio is already used in Canadian colleges.
A new version of the Involvio app will be delivered to users soon as an update is available. The app includes a personalized agenda, breakdown of event categories, recommendations based on users’ Facebook profiles, and convenient access to Google Maps.
As a company, Involvio is moving very fast, forcing the team to step back and evaluate itself and the competition.
“Our strategy is mobile first, and ultimately our vision for Involvio is connecting people with real-world experiences happening around them and expanding their sphere of awareness,” Winkleman said.
At first, events could only be posted directly on the Involvio app, until Facebook events and schools’ event calendars were integrated into the system. Now Involvio has its own database that houses off-campus events set up through websites such as Live Nation and Ticketmaster. By combining all of these systems, it will be easier for students to explore both their campus and the world around it.
“We’ve seen plenty of companies try to do what we do, or an aspect of what we do, and we love it because we learn from it,” Jeremy Bloom, a senior majoring in graphic design, said. Bloom is the head designer for Involvio, and he created all of the app’s visual aspects.
The team members know there is competition out there, and they look to the competition to see what works and what doesn’t, but they believe they are far ahead of other event apps.
“We have grown as a company, and my design skills have grown from that. We’re trying to get a lot more user friendly and very simple, Apple-esque,” Bloom said.
Drexel students experienced some difficulty using the Involvio app to purchase Snoop Dogg concert tickets in January. Winkleman explained that a very large number of students were using the app simultaneously to purchase tickets and kept reloading the event page, which caused the app to crash nationwide.
“This proved there was a crazy demand and people wanted to use Involvio, and that the events that were on our site were of interest,” Winkleman said.
Servers in both New York and California failed, but their backup ticketing site was launched immediately and worked flawlessly. Since then the servers have been upgraded to handle a higher capacity.
The idea for Involvio stemmed from a simple blog titled “LeBow Ticker,” which Winkleman created as a freshman. The goal of the blog was to inform students of various meetings and activities happening within clubs in the LeBow College of Business. Winkleman eventually decided to expand this idea to be a central location that would list all activities and events across campus.
“When launching a [startup] company there is no better time or school to do it than Drexel. The reason is because you have not only access to an incredible group of really talented students, but also you have access to an incredibly supportive set of faculty and administrators,” Winkleman said.
Last summer the Involvio team went to Manhattan to take part in a Student Innovation Incubator hosted by General Electric and OMD, a global media agency. The CEO of OMD and chief marketing officer of GE chose Involvio as the most promising startup to graduate. Involvio’s team beat out graduate students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Harvard University.
“This proves that we have not only classroom education but real-world knowledge that is directly applicable,” Winkleman said.
Winkleman and Bloom developed Involvio in collaboration with Diana Distefano, another LeBow student; Evan Siegel, a graduate of Goucher College; and Carter Smith, a McGill University student.