This Little App Came to Market: UofM Students Develop LinkUp to Connect Winnipeggers
When it came to developing LinkUp, the new app that connects Winnipeggers with each other and local businesses, Neil Chitohwa had an unusual inspiration. The then-UofM student was trying to meet a girl in his class.
“I was on Twitter looking for her Instagram account and I thought ‘How do I know what Kylie Jenner is doing, but I don’t even know who this girl is right beside me?’ There needs to be a platform where I can just go and search for her and see everything. So I was like ‘why don’t I be the one to make that happen?’ Then I just kind of started the process.”
“The process” involved a mutual friend putting Chitohwa in touch with Kieran Cairney (C. Sci. ’17), a UofM Computer Science student who was quick to perceive LinkUp’s potential. As Cairney saw it, the only hurdle would be the limits placed on third party apps by entities such as Facebook and Snapchat. Two years later, the concept eventually metamorphosed into LinkUp’s present form, which spans both social and business connections.
“People make posts and can filter them based on location, age range or who their friends are. [LinkUp] can also filter what other people see of your posts. The idea is connecting people locally for whatever they need. Flat tire? New restaurant? Whatever. Businesses can sign up and have exclusive coupons for it … It kind of encourages connection with people around you and local businesses. We want to boost Winnipeg businesses.”
“The cool thing is by having coupons to encourage [users] to check in, all of your friends will get a notification saying that you’ve checked in to that location. Then you can connect with all your friends that are there.”
Chitohwa is also excited about the potential LinkUp has for promoting new businesses that might not have much money to advertise. At the same time, the app will provide users with unique opportunities of which they might otherwise be unaware. For example, established national restaurant chains aren’t LinkUp’s focus, simply because they are already well-known to consumers.
Currently, it’s free for local businesses to post their coupons. Cairney and Chitohwa are careful to point out that they won’t allow LinkUp to become just another way for businesses to spam users. “LinkUp gives [businesses] that reach, but limits them to a point where it’s balanced, so they’re not spamming everyone.”
With LinkUp’s launch successfully behind them, Chitohwa, Cairney and their team (which includes current UofM Student Tiana Tait, UofM alum Leo Lin as well as Francesco Ferlaino, Emmanuel Lomuro and David Yu) are setting their sights on 2018. Their goal is to increase their client base while educating potential users about all that LinkUp has to offer.
Meanwhile, Cairney will finish school next month before moving to Vancouver to start a new job. He’s pleased to have had a hand in developing LinkUp:
“I like to see my work directly in the hands of consumers and see their appreciation of it. That’s the biggest one for me. Having that firsthand appreciation of my work, for me as a software developer is a big thing.”
As for Chitohwa’s original inspiration, he never did make that connection with his classmate. The entrepreneur isn’t worried though. LinkUp’s initial success means that he’s got plenty of work to keep him busy, now and into the foreseeable future.
The app can be found on the iOS app store or through the link linkupconnect.ca/download
A few snapshots of the App in action:
For more information check out:
LinkUp Connect’s youtube channel link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ8Q8QmWBldRC4ngcYJtm_w
LinkUp Connect’s Instagram handle : LinkUp_connect