October 14, 2014

Cornell Startup Aims to Improve Online Sharing

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By CHRISTOPHER BYRNS

The social media startup company Daapr — cofounded by Cornellians Alex Meyers ’15 and Aaron Schifrin ’14 in April 2013 — has grown beyond its initial testing phase and has begun marketing its platform to a broader audience in efforts to spread a “new way to personalize the online experience.”

According to Schifrin, Daapr’s chief executive officer, the company’s aim is to change the culture around reading and sharing content on the internet. Daapr’s website is an aggregator that allows users to select from a list of interests to determine the content displayed on their profiles and also identifies others with similar interests to follow.

“Daapr is a collaborative effort amongst a diverse group of Cornell students. … The key is that each individual brings a unique perspective and skillset to the table.” — Alex Meyers ’15

Meyers and Schifrin said they saw problems with existing social media and thought of Daapr as a way to create an improved social media platform. They also said they noticed a stigma of sharing content on existing social media platforms, where people felt too uncomfortable to share content or engage in discussion, and a dispersal of content across a large number of social media platforms.

“Social media is disaggregating,” Schifrin said. “People are [increasingly] turning to single function platforms where they know they have an audience for a particular type of content.”

According to the cofounders, Daapr seeks to create an environment where users feel more comfortable to share content because they share it with friends and people of similar interests. Through this environment, the creators said they hope that the platform — which targets “the TED Talk watcher” — will foster deeper and more meaningful discussions.

“At this point, our user base is primarily composed of intellectually engaged college students and young professionals,” Schifrin said.

Currently, the developers are evaluating feedback from users to improve the startup’s website experience and are testing to see if the systems can handle a larger user base. Schifrin said that challenges exist in trying to make the platform appeal to a large audience, but that the student community at Cornell provides an “ideal” essential test market because of the variety of different majors across students and a desire for communication across disciplines.

“Cornell is an ideal community to test and begin growing a platform like this,” Schifrin said.

According to the developers, Daapr took its present shape in Sept. 2013, when the developers switched to programming with Ruby on Rails. Since then, they have assembled a team of Cornell students who work on Daapr.

“Daapr is a collaborative effort amongst a diverse group of Cornell students,” said Meyers, who is Daapr’s chief technology officer. “Some team members work on building the site, others design and market the platform. The key is that each individual brings a unique perspective and skillset to the table that helps to grow the product and the team.”

The POPSHOP —  a collaborative student-run workplace in Collegetown — has also been an invaluable resource in creating Daapr, according to the developers. At the POPSHOP, the team meets at least twice a week to plan the next sprint cycle and to write code.

According to the developers, the POPSHOP also provides an “open” environment where the Daapr programmers can discuss ideas with other programmers and broaden their perspectives.

“The POPSHOP has been critical for Daapr in both creating a convenient and open working environment for the team,” Meyers said. “[Additionally, it] foster[s] a community of young entrepreneurs that work and grow together.”

In addition, the developers said they are fortunate to have access to the eLab through Cornell.

“Cornell makes a real effort to give student entrepreneurs everything they need to succeed,” Schifrin said.

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