Meet the Warwick students who created an app to bring students together

They hope that their app will ‘put the social back into social media’


Unless you’ve managed to avoid the promotional stickers decorating campus recently then you’ve probably heard of Butterfly: a social media app for Warwick students that strives to “put the social back into social media” by encouraging students to “spread their social wings”. I met with the creators of the app, to talk about why they think Butterfly will benefit students and their vision for a more interconnected student community.

Meet the creators

Earlier this year, Josh Okusi (CEO) and Alex Reid (CFO) decided that they wanted to make an app for university students. After a few months of honing the idea for the app with Zain Mobarik (CTO), and bringing on Owen Price as the Vice President of Finance to help manage newly acquired funding, the app was finally released in September. Since then it has been downloaded by over 750 Warwick students, with many students using the app to share stories and pictures of their day to day life at Warwick.

What is Butterfly?

The creators explained that their vision for the app was to “put the social back into social media”: they believe that Butterfly can remedy some of the issues with how we use social media today.

Alex explained how Butterfly might achieve this: “social media has been transformed into passive scrolling and the consumption of entertainment, it is not primarily social anymore. A lot of what we consume on social media is so detached from our own day to day lives, so we wanted to create a social media that is grounded in our community, with all content shared on the app being relevant to the real lives of its users.”

Zain pointed out one of the pitfalls of making friends on social media that Butterfly could help to rectify: “digital friendships are so hard to bring into the real world. We want to encourage genuine connections that are more transferrable: even though they’re formed over an app, they’re fostered within your community.”

Use of the app is incentivised: you can win rewards for using the app – and thus engaging socially – with prizes: just a couple of weeks ago the three users with the most points won a free meal at Benugo with a plus one. “We hope that the prizes will incentivise interactions within the community” Alex explained.

Where did the idea for Butterfly come from?

“Butterfly wasn’t just an idea that came out of thin air” Josh explained, “it came from an issue we noticed when we got together and spoke about how it is to make friends at university.

“We talked as a team about issues we saw within the student community at Warwick. If you don’t go clubbing, the opportunities to meet new people can be limited. Once freshers’ week and society tasters disappear, it can be harder to make friends. We saw the potential to fix this issue that doesn’t get talked about enough.”

Josh went on to explain that the app can benefit more than just freshers students: “second and third years might think that they’ve already made all the friends that they can at university. We wanted our app to challenge this conception by providing the student community at Warwick with a new forum for connection.”

This wasn’t always their vision however. Alex explained that the Butterfly we know today was born out of a different idea entirely.

“Josh and I were in a room and Josh was talking about a sorting algorithm he’d found. That’s where our earlier app idea ‘Popcon’ came from: using the sorting algorithm to rank people by popularity, which had its obvious downfalls. It started with Popcon, but it wasn’t until we all came together that we were able to create Butterfly. And that’s at the heart of our mission really: bringing people together.”

Have you found that the way people use the app differs from how you expected it to be used?

Zain expressed his satisfaction with how users are making use of Butterfly: “I was pretty surprised. People understood the casual nature of the app without us really having to explain it. People caught on to the sort of content we had hoped people would use the app for: maybe not the best picture of themselves that they’d post on Instagram, but something that was more casual and suited to the close knit nature of the community we’d hoped to cultivate.”

The caveat of creating a social media platform is the comparison to other social media platforms that it inevitably invites, however Josh found that comparison helped to affirm that his vision was being actualised.

“I expected people to liken the app to Instagram” Josh explained, “but someone recently said that they found it to be more reminiscent of BeReal because of the type of content that’s on it. This told me that our goal for authenticity really shone through and connected with people in a way I didn’t expect so early on. I think people caught onto it because some part of us desires to feel community, which we had always hoped the app would provide.”

What’s next for Butterfly?

Alex explained how the team planned to develop the app to help make finding events more convenient and less daunting.

“Right now on the app you can post about an event and people can click to ‘join the party’, but we would like to develop the functionality of this feature further: we want it to open up into a group chat, so you can see who is going to the event and talk to them. We see the potential for this to be used for society events.”

Josh added: “its hard to keep track of everything that’s going on, all the societies that are holding different events, people who are hosting parties and so on. We’d like to develop an events page where you can see all the events that are happening in one place, search for events and join group chats for them.”

Zain explained how this development would bring Butterfly closer to achieving its goal.

“Adding this sort of functionality will make the app more closely in line with our mission: helping make digital friendships more transferrable to the real world. Maybe someone you see regularly on Butterfly has posted an event announcing that they’re hosting a house party. You have an opportunity to make a friend in the Warwick student community that you may not have had otherwise. We hope that Butterfly could help students connect with each other in a way that they wouldn’t be able to without the app.”

Aside from developments to the app, the team also plan to make Butterfly available to students at all universities:

“Our plan is to do a UK release. We’re testing the waters with Warwick students, who have provided valuable feedback for future development.”

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