DormRoom, a new app created by Ryerson students, has officially been approved by Apple and was released this morning. The app intends to be a combination of Instagram, Snapchat and Tinder.
Its developers say they hope to create a community that connects students across the country in post-secondary schooling. According to a 2013 Statistics Canada survey, 90 per cent of Internet users between ages of 15 and 24 use social networking sites.
“Facebook has moved so far away from universities,” said one of the developers, Cina Mehrvar. “They have gotten pretty out of touch with student.”
Stephen Hewitt, the CEO and one of the three co-founders used his spare time after failing a course to create the nationwide, student-based social networking site.
The DormRoom website launched in September and gained about 7,000 Ryerson users within one semester. Hewitt shares the responsibilities with co-founder and follow Ryerson student, Mehrvar and Ryerson alumnus, Raj Kumar.
DormRoom is planning to open Marketplace, a feature of their site that will allow students to buy and sell student goods such as textbooks and dorm furniture. They also plan to expand into the American market by September 2016.
“I think Facebook is the worst and I’m super over it,” said Julia York, a first-year University of Toronto humanities student. “So anything that will replace Facebook, I would be happy to join into.”
But third-year Ryerson engineering student, Matthew Scott says DormRoom is not developed enough yet to replace Facebook. “The user base isn’t big enough just yet. It has potential. I’d use it but not as a replacement for Facebook,” Scott said.
With its wide combination of features, DormRoom hopes to bring back the original goal of Facebook, which is students communicating only with other students.
“I think it’s a good addition because it brings students together,” said Ryerson first-year environmental management student Jacqueline Sharun.
The trio has only spent a few thousand dollars on hosting their website and their domain name.“We are broke students. We can’t afford anything. I can barely afford my food for tomorrow but if you learn how to (code) yourself, you don’t need financial aid,” Mehrvar said.
Mehrvar took a semester off from Ryerson’s engineering program to focus on developing the app.
“I remember as soon as I had the idea, I was in my lab,” Mehrvar said. “And I was like, I’m not going to finish this lab. I don’t even know why I’m here.”
The trio spends most of their time developing DormRoom in their apartment.
“Every kind of good idea I had, I would write on my dorm room wall,” said Hewitt.
Hewitt says it’s difficult to balance his demanding program with the site’s development but his education at Ryerson was necessary in developing the app.
“I don’t think there would be DormRoom today if I was not in architecture, which is kind of bizarre,” said Hewitt. Similarly, Mehrvar says that although his engineering courses don’t directly relate to app coding, they helped him think about software from an entrepreneur’s perspective.
According to a Ryerson University report, more than 10 per cent of students are involved in degrees, courses, research or mentoring programs with an entrepreneurial focus.
Alison Kemper, entrepreneurship and strategy professor at Ryerson, said that there’s always room in the market for good products.
She said that entrepreneurship for students is popular right now because “the job market is so terrible. Students are dealing with this by inventing their own jobs.”
The DormRoom team preferred not to go the traditional startup route and instead worked on the app by themselves.
“There’s DMZ, there’s launch zone, there’s all these people trying to control startups,” Mehrvar said. “We want none of that. There have been people who have tried to come in and we said no we don’t want the oversight.”
“I think DormRoom will fail as soon as it’s out of the hands of students,” Mehrvar said.