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Drexel Senior Launches Social Platform for Campus Events

November 28, 2011

Ari Winkleman

Drexel senior Ari Winkleman walked out of Omnicom Group’s OMD media agency in September with an oversized check for $10,000 and plans to launch his start up program, Involvio, to universities around the country. Weeks later, Winkleman and his team have launched the platform on a handful of campuses with no plans of slowing down.

Involvio, a free social platform that is both web and mobile app based, aggregates campus events and enables students to find and market their events more effectively. Winkleman’s goal for the program is to democratize event promotion and create a space for all organizations to promote events in a single, digital location.

“As a freshman, I was the student who wanted to get involved in everything, but I couldn't easily figure out where and when things were happening,” says Winkleman, a business administration major. “There was no central hub where groups could post their upcoming events - and a place where students could quickly search. We needed to solve the problem of the cluttered bulletin board.”

And with more than 300 student organizations at Drexel, it’s a problem that needs fixing. Winkleman found the solution—a website and mobile app for all student organizations to post their event information to one central and on-the-go hub.

“Students want quick, easy and savvy, and that’s what this offers,” says David Ruth, Drexel’s dean of students.

Winkleman recently met with senior leaders at Drexel including Ruth and Senior Vice President of Student Life & Administrative Services Jim Tucker to describe how Involvio can benefit the University’s students and departments. He illustrated how academia, sports, music, social networking and event planning are all organized components of Involvio’s homepage, offering an easy way for members to add events, RSVP and see which events their friends are attending.

“Involvio keeps us on base with ever-changing technology at Drexel. It keeps us on the same pace as our savvy students,” says John Cooke, associate dean in Student Life.

The mobile app, to be released next term, is what sets Involvio apart from Facebook’s event listings. Involvio leverages and integrates with Facebook's events product as a vehicle to figure out which activities your friends are interested in and attending, according to Winkleman. Students are able to pull up a map of the campus on their smart phone and see exactly where current events are being held, and if their friends are there.

“We’re working hard to make sure that our platform is not only innovative, but also very beautiful,” says Jeremy Bloom, a senior graphic design major who designed Involvio. “Every element of our web and mobile interface is deliberate. We use a tremendous amount of research, user testing and, of course, basic the design principles we’re taught at Drexel.” Bloom has enjoyed his coursework in the Westphal College of Media, Arts & Design where he’s focused on web design as part of the the web and motion design track.
Winkleman and his team are working to build the best product to accomplish their goal—to get students out from behind their computers and back onto campus where exciting things are constantly happening.

Winkleman’s entrepreneurial drive started during his freshman year during when he created LeBowTicker, a website for LeBow College of Business faculty, professional staff and student organizations to add and organize their events. Involvio incorporates this concept on larger scale so that it includes all colleges at Drexel, as well as at other Universities.

“Transforming an idea into a business is an enormous endeavor - it takes a ton of work, but more importantly, a ton of support. Drexel has been incredibly supportive and is behind us all the way. I couldn't imagine a better place to work on a project like this,” says Winkleman.

Winkleman and his team of six—three of whom are Drexel students—created the software during a summer incubator program run by General Electric and OMD that encourages young entrepreneurs to develop startups in the digital space. From a pool of more than 200 applicants, Involvio was one of 12 applicants invited to participate in the 10-week program in Manhattan that concluded with a presentation to top executives at GE and OMD.

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--Stephanie Takach, University Communications