Social media app created by and for Sac State students has campus buzzing
June 17, 2022
Dagem Kebede’s last year of high school was more virtual than memorable, and the pandemic made his first year at Sacramento State online, too.
So last spring, when he had a chance try Buzly – a social media app created by and for students – he jumped at the chance to connect with fellow Hornets.
“Everybody’s on TikTok or Instagram, but Buzly gives us more of a connection,” said Kebede, a 19-year-old Computer Science student. He said many users meet face-to-face at campus events.
“It made Sac State more welcoming because I could see people I connected with.”
Buzly is a student-only platform available exclusively at Sacramento State that offers users a safe place to engage with their peers, build communities, and receive tailored campus updates based on their majors and interests.
Engineering students Srinjay Verma and Abubeker Hussen created Buzly along with alumnus Jackie D. Diaz and Biology student Ryan Fly.
Word has spread and now other schools want the app, creators say.
Buzly started as an idea to create a resale marketplace app. With help from Sac State’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the team conducted customer research and realized students wanted more than a place to sell their used books.
“Students actually wanted to talk with one another and find a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” Verma said. “Students were feeling isolated after COVID, so we pivoted to more of a discussion forum where students can talk and meet other people.”
With the help of Sac State’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Buzly team created a private social networking app where students also can get campus information they need pertinent to them rather than weeding through hundreds of school-wide emails.
“We have the perfect social media platform” to reach out to students and get them engaged, Hussen said.
Buzly launched in February, and since then its 4,800 users have been posting about everything from photos of the worst parking jobs to campus security alerts.
“At one point we couldn’t keep up with the feed because so many people were posting,” Verma said. “Like every second, we’d see a new post. It was crazy.”
Students use their Sac State email address to sign up, providing a sense of community – and security – other social media apps don’t, Verma and Hussen said.
“If you go to Instagram or Snapchat, you don’t know those people,” Verma said. “We’re meeting students where they are – on their phones, scrolling.”
Though Buzly may seem familiar – think back to another social media app that got its start at Harvard University – Verma they plan to keep Buzly ad-free. The app’s creators are looking for investors and aim to raise half a million dollars.
“They really came together and gelled, and they each started to play different roles,” Carlsen Center Executive Director Cameron Law said. “It’s exciting to see the growth they’ve had, particularly how they solved a real need for students.”
At first glance, Hussen and Verma seem unlikely business partners.
Hussen, 22, developed a love for math and science at an early age, and graduated from the School of Engineering and Sciences, a seventh- through 12th-grade public school near his south Sacramento home.
“I had an interest in tech for a while,” said Hussen, a Mechanical Engineering student.
Verma’s path wasn’t as straightforward. A former professional dancer, the Rocklin resident’s first business foray was a clothing line he launched while still in high school.
“The clothing industry is very, very competitive,” said Verma, 22. “I liked the entrepreneurial world, but I realized quickly I wanted to make sure I did something I could actually succeed in.”
In May, Buzly won the People’s Choice Award at the UC Davis Little Bang Poster + Pitch Competition, along with $1,000. They also took home a $10,000 prize at e-Fest2022 in Minneapolis, where they went up against schools such as Cornell University and the University of Chicago.
Now the Buzly team plans to create similar, student-only apps at other colleges and universities, including CSU Chico and UC Davis.
“It can help (schools) increase graduation rates and lower drop-out rates by providing students with a sense of community that helps them stay in college,” Verma said.
“Our focus is serving the students. At the end of the day, we created Buzly because we wanted a fun place for students to engage. That’s never going to change, no matter what.”
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