SmileBack app brings students together

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Daniel Berenholtz, CEO and founder of SmileBack, talks to The Orion about the prevalence of his app at Chico State. Photo courtesy of Daniel Berenholtz

Have you ever wanted to get to know the students you sit next to in class, but haven’t had the courage to spark a conversation? Now there is a new and free app that can make getting to know your peers fun. It’s call SmileBack.

SmileBack is a new app where students can send anonymous smiles, which are the students’ profile pictures, to one another and then try guessing who sent it. Students are given two guesses with a batch of four people. If the individual guesses right, the two people can chat. If not, better luck next time.

The app was launched in September 2013 but expanded to more schools, including Chico State, in October 2014. Daniel Berenholtz, CEO, founder of SmileBack and a former Cornell University student, talked about where the idea for the app surfaced.

“A lot of campuses have tens of thousands of students, and you can go through four years in college and end up not meeting over 80 percent of the kids you go to school with,” Berenholtz said. “I thought it would be really cool if there was a way for people to meet other people on their campus that they don’t necessarily have classes with or see in the dining hall, and so I thought about SmileBack.”

The app allows users to connect through Facebook and Instagram after creating a profile. Each profile displays the user’s name, school, a profile picture and what gender they are interested in, making it easy to connect with other students of the same school.

With 55 to 60 thousand people on the app, and at more than 50 campuses, there are plenty of people to play the game with. Students on the app can connect with anyone from any school.

Tanner Bloom, a senior communications major, said more people need to join the app because of how well it connects people.

“I think this app is a cool idea, but it needs more people to join,” Bloom said.

When students guess correctly and find a match, they are rewarded with a free drink voucher, supplied by the SmileBack company, to bars.

However, the drink vouchers are not at every location yet because the app expanded more rapidly than SmileBack could keep up with, Berenholtz said.

“With the drinks, we don’t actually buy the drinks, the bars just cover the cost,” Berenholtz said. “The reason the bars do that is because most people usually get additional drinks, so it makes it worth it for them. The drink only goes to the person who guessed, not the person who sent the smile.”

Users are given tokens to use to send smiles and receive more guesses. Tokens are attained by either inviting friends to use the app or by being bought.

“The app is a fun way to bring people together on campuses who they otherwise never would have met,” Berenholtz said.

Taylor Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or @TaySinclair17 on Twitter.