Murray grad designs app to bring people together

Photos courtesy of Jon Burdon Socialcoaster is a mobile app designed to connect people and create online micro-communities based on shared interests.
Photos courtesy of Jon Burdon Socialcoaster is a mobile app designed to connect people and create online micro-communities based on shared interests.

Photos courtesy of Jon Burdon
Socialcoaster is a mobile app designed to connect people and create online micro-communities based on shared interests.

Are you having a hard time finding friends with common interests? There’s an app for that.

Two Murray State graduates have come together with a team to create a social media app, Socialcoaster, that connects users based on their common interests.

Socialcoaster is a social platform that provides users who share interests a place to create, grow and follow micro-communities according to likes on their Facebook page.

Socialcoaster was founded in January of 2013 and was recently launched in December of 2014. Entrepreneur Jon Burdon, graduate of Murray State, is the CEO of Socialcoaster.

Burdon said the idea for the app developed based on the old concept of message board forums and then revolutionized it for a more mobile-friendly experience.

“We’ve been doing really well since the launch,” Burdon said. “The number of people logging in has increased daily since we launched.”

The concept for Socialcoaster began as an idea for events and places, but then rolled over into micro-communities, Burdon said. Micro-communities are tightly knit groups of people with common interests that exist within larger communities. The goal of Socialcoaster is to help these micro-communities thrive in any setting.

Burdon said although some inventors dislike changing their product, he encourages feedback from the users. If a user stops logging into the app for an extended amount of time, they might receive an email asking why they have stopped using Socialcoaster so the team can better understand what changes need to be made.

The team behind Socialcoaster consists of the CEO, the vice president of business development, two in-house developers and one contract developer.

Burdon said initially there were a few bugs and crashes, but the team is working hard to keep updating and making improvements to the app.

“Give us six months to a year before it’s polished,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Jon Burdon  Jon Burdon, a Murray State graduate, founded Socialcoaster in January of 2013 and launched the app in December of 2014.

Photo courtesy of Jon Burdon
Jon Burdon, a Murray State graduate, founded Socialcoaster in January of 2013 and launched the app in December of 2014.

Socialcoaster is more filtered than other social media apps. It requires the user to provide a legitimate telephone number for verification and administration are always behind the scenes monitoring activity on the app.

“We believe in the freedom of speech, but we hate hate speech,” he said.

Hate speech is defined as language that offends, threatens or insults groups of people based on their race, color, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Any form of social media bullying is considered unacceptable on Socialcoaster.

Burdon said the app needs to grow and get as many users as it can because the team cannot make any profit or do any advertising until the app reaches a critical mass. As of now the group is operating on investment money, but advertising may be a possibility in the future.

“The advertising would be non-intrusive and extremely targeted toward their audience,” he said.

Sam Toby, graduate student at Murray State, is the vice president of business development for Socialcoaster.

Toby said he met Burdon at a professional speaking seminar hosted by the University and was later offered an internship with Socialcoaster that summer by Burdon.

“I even lived in Jonathon’s basement for the duration of the internship,” Toby said. “True start-up life, which is as sad as it is true.”

He said being part of a small start-up meant having to be willing to fulfill various roles and tasks daily to make it successful.

“There were some days I spent vacuuming floors to prepare for hosting investors and days we had 10 high school students running around the office trying to keep their focus long enough to have a focus group session,” he said.

Toby said Socialcoaster strives to bring the feeling of community back to social media. The app encourages users to collaborate, communicate and reach out to others users with common interests in your area.

The team at Socialcoaster desires to siphon the egocentrism out of social media and emphasize the commonalities and sense of belonging that social networking can bring to users.

“We have micro-communities that bring together people that are interested in anything from wire jewelry to UK basketball, from horses to the Country Music Hall of Fame,” he said.

As of 2014, there were more than 15 clubs and 100 student organizations registered at Murray State, according to the Murray State website.  But none are as specially tailored to individual interests as the groups on Socialcoaster.

The app allows students to seek like-minded individuals and build a stronger community.

“Our network highlights the greatest part of the community, which is the shared sense of commonality and belongingness,” Toby said.

Story by Mari-Alice Jasper, Assistant News Editor