Julia Pimentel interviews Ricardo Mighty, UCL Alumnus and founder of PinU
Ok, remember The Social Network? The heartwarming tale of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to Facebook fame and its inextricable link to Harvard University, where he came up with the idea? Well, I’m here to tell you that UCL could get its own techno-fame thanks to a new app, PinU, developed by a UCL alumnus. We can get Christopher Nolan to direct the whole thing. It’ll be huge.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll take literally anything as an excuse to get out of the library. But sometimes it can be hard to know who’s around and willing to go for the third coffee of the day. UCL alumnus Ricardo Mighty wants to help. With the help of a UCL Advances summer internship, he joined a local Camden company and, together, they’ve created the new app, PinU. Essentially, the app is a simple, easy to use way to know if your friends are around at the same time as you are. “Ultimately, PinU’s mission is to create shared experiences all over the world,” Ricardo, one of the co-founders, told me over email. I sat down with him last week to find out more details.
“The biggest problem for us, when we were at uni, was that you never really know where your friends are all the time,” Ricardo said, “and so we decided to create a way to know if your friends are in your area.”
So, this is how it will work: the app won’t show you anyone’s exact locations down to the meter, but it will inform you if someone is within a certain radius of where you are. The app will tell you “so-and-so is in your area!” and then you can use the app’s built-in instant messaging platform to speak to them. They’re keeping it simple: the app won’t say exactly where the friend is and there won’t be a map. You can set your range and it will work anywhere and everywhere. I got to see a very early beta version of the app, and while the design of that was still a bit primitive, the idea and functionality was clearly there. And it’s useful.
We all probably have Facebook on our phones. We all have the ability to text each other. There are even similar “where are you right now” apps, like FourSquare or Swarm. So how is PinU different? “There’s space for us to do something better [than Swarm]. It’s easy to use, it’s quick,” Ricardo affirms. Also, let’s be real: just because you’re Facebook friends with someone does not mean you’re really friends. Because PinU lets you add specific friends, that horrible cringe factor of “oh my god how do I get out of talking to this person I met once at Loop I don’t remember their face” is removed. There’s also a “stealth mode” option for when you just don’t want to remember anyone’s face.
Because Ricardo is a UCL alumnus and really misses us cool kids, they’re launching at UCL on Monday. “People at UCL are from all around London, so I figured they’d really benefit from something that is easy to use and just lets you know if your friends are close by,” Ricardo said. PinU is being launched exclusively for UCL students for the first few weeks, so we really should all start practicing for our auditions of the UCL version of The Social Network because when PinU really takes off, that’s clearly going to be what happens next.
Look out for the PinU team on Monday March 2nd as they distribute cupcakes (in exchange for downloads) all around campus. Because the app is still taking baby steps, it’s only available on Android for now. iPhone users can expect the iOS version in a few weeks, though – and can still grab a cupcake if you sign up on their website.