Startup Wants To Help Diversify Us
You can use an app to order a pizza, find a date, talk to the world and check nearby gas prices. Can an app affect diversity? Local software developer Daniel McFarland hopes to find out.
McFarland’s DiversifyUs app won November’s Startup Weekend competition, but McFarland almost didn’t pitch the project.
“My wife and I were having a conversation actually only the night before Startup Weekend was to begin,” McFarland told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday. “We were talking about some Ferguson-related issues, and at the same time, in the back of my mind, I thought it would be nice if I had an idea to pitch. I was going to Startup Weekend as a developer, not necessarily as one who was planning to pitch, but I thought it would be nice if I could have an idea.
“While we were talking, it occurred to me, because my wife and I met through Match.com, that we found each other based on the similarities we shared and the thought that we could do life together. But how do you connect with people who aren’t as similar as that? Who, perhaps, are in different social circles than you travel in? Maybe there could be an app that could connect people from these differing social groups.”
That’s what DiversifyUs sets out to do: The app will collect demographic information and create user profiles to find similarities and differences. It will then try to match people.
“We’re not trying to connect people who have no commonality, but that they have commonalities that aren’t visible on the surface … and that they are different in some other ways that may keep them from connecting otherwise,” McFarland said. “We don’t want to just connect people who differ religiously or racially or politically, but also age groups.”
DiversifyUs is similar to a dating app, McFarland said, “except we don’t want to share images as part of the matching process. We’re matching you on things that are below the surface. We don’t want you to be deterred by visual representations of a person because we think that our eyes lie to us, or encourage us to develop perspectives on people that may not really be rooted in truth. We’re trying to give you information that you can’t see.”
DiversifyUs will target businesses that are seeking more diverse workforces.
“Companies already spend millions of dollars on diversity and inclusion programs every year,” McFarland said. “We believe that if we can get our app into companies that are already looking to do that, that we can be a profitable venture.”
The app will be free for the end-user. If DiversifyUs is successful, two other variations of the app also are planned: DiversifyU will similarly target colleges and universities. DiversifyMe will be open for everyday use. “We hope to run hosted events for people to connect with people who they share things and obviously have differences with,” McFarland said.
The 12-member DiversifyUs team plans to launch the app in mid-January. Sign up for news about the app at diversifyus.com.
“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.