Student startup ‘Someonew’ paves the way for face-to-face connection

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students Kenny Dundorf and Andrew Simpson are firm believers in the value of face-to-face interaction. Sure, they’re the co-founders of a new mobile application — but it comes with a twist designed to get people off their smartphones.

In keeping with the app’s namesake, the aim of Someonew is to bring strangers together with mutual interests and pave the way to friendship.

“I came up with this idea because I noticed that everywhere I went around campus, or even on the bus, people were glued to their phones,” said Simpson, a Laurel, Maryland native. “I also noticed I was the same way. It made it hard for me to meet people and have conversations with people I didn’t know.”

When new users download Someonew, they’re prompted to fill in their top five interests or passions. The app will send push notifications when two users with similar profiles are in close proximity to each other.

“You’re able to thrust yourself into spontaneous conversation with a stranger about something you love,” said Dundorf, a Hillsborough, New Jersey native.

Dundorf said the app is currently targeted toward first-year students at Penn State who may find the large student population to be “daunting,” though it serves other segments looking to find “meaningful connections” as well.

“Our ideology is that you never know who you might pass on the street,” he said. “You could be passing your next best friend, your husband or wife, or business partner.” 

Once the co-founders committed to Someonew over the summer, they were out testing the concept the next day. As for Dundorf’s success, he said he managed to have conversations ranging from 45 minutes to four hours with “random people.”

Though it shares similarities with other platforms like Tinder, Someonew is not meant to be superficial or solely text-based, Dundorf stressed.

“Whenever you get a match, we won’t show you the person’s profile,” Dundorf said. “We won’t show you anything until both parties have met because we don’t want it to turn into a dating app.”

As Someonew moved forward in the development stage and entered the App Store in beta mode, the fees began to add up for the student entrepreneurs. At the recommendation of an advanced entrepreneurship professor, the duo applied to Lion LaunchPad for funding of promotional materials, backend server hosting, and a professional support email.      

Anne Hoag, the co-director of Lion LaunchPad and director of the Intercollege Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, or ENTI, said the initiative is the “one place that undergraduates can go for very specific mentoring and microgrants.”

Lion LaunchPad is Undergraduate Education’s featured unit for #GivingTuesday, the global day of giving celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. Please support  Penn State’s entrepreneurial students by giving to Lion LaunchPad on Nov. 28 and 29 here.

“Often, students just need small amounts of money to make a really big difference,” Hoag said. “We’ve paid for students to finance their prototyping. We’ve financed students to file their incorporation papers. We’ve financed students who are doing customer research.”

Simpson said he would encourage all student entrepreneurs to seek funding from the program.

“If you know your company, your vision and have confidence in what you’re building, then there is no logical reason not to apply,” he said.

Hoag and Lion LaunchPad co-director and clinical associate professor of entrepreneurship Peter Whalen help students craft their presentations before they’re ready for an official pitching session.

The program, Hoag said, is a “critical piece of the Penn State entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

“We meet with students when they need to,” Hoag said. “We mentor them, give them advice and help shape their business concepts.”      

The mission of Someonew itself has helped solve other major hurdles, like finding a chief technology officer. By openly initiating conversations with programmers and “tech savvy” individuals, Dundorf and Simpson have put together a team of 12 members.

Dundorf said establishing friendships with coworkers has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the experience so far.  

“There hasn’t been a single day that I dreaded going into work,” he said. There’s a mission behind it, and it’s bigger than myself.”

The next step for Someonew is just around the corner, as the app is set to launch in January on both Android and iOS devices.

Giving Tuesday

This story is part of a four-part series highlighting successful student startups that benefitted from Penn State’s Lion LaunchPad, Undergraduate Education’s featured unit for #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Nov. 29.

Please consider supporting Penn State’s entrepreneurial students by giving to Lion LaunchPad on Nov. 28 and 29 here. If you are unable to make a gift on those days, but would still like to support Penn State students, please visit the Lion LaunchPad giving page

Media Contacts: 

Beth Kocher Gormley

Work Phone: 
814-863-1446

Director of Communications, Undergraduate Education

Last Updated January 24, 2017