Provo-based app encourages friendship building

ZooWho employees, from left to right: BYU student Seth Bair, BYU student Bridget Nistler, ZooWho CEO Sean Bair, BYU student Taylor Holbrook, UVU student Daniel Tovar, UVU student Hunter Davis and BYU student Claire Shaner. (ZooWho)

The average American knows 600 people, according to The New York Times.

But how well does one really know them?

In May 2018, Sean Bair was on his way to meet a friend when he realized he had forgotten the names of his friend’s children, though he’d met them numerous times. Embarrassed, Bair quickly called his wife for help so he could avoid a potentially awkward situation.

That’s when he realized there had to be an easier way to remember a simple piece of information like a friend’s child’s name.

When Bair returned home, he drew up his idea on his daughter’s 20-foot dance studio mirror — then decided to take a risk by venturing into the world of app creation and financing it all himself.

“Every business is a risk,” he said. “You have to trust your instincts.”

Bair and his team released the first version of the app, ZooWho on Sept. 16.

“The whole intent was to allow me to quickly capture details about people that I just met, or even people I’d known for a while — things that are important to them,” he said.

Bair said he had tried using notes in his phone to keep track of details about other people, but “It just wasn’t the right tech to help me advance and be better.”

ZooWho allows users to record information about family, friends and business associates in one central location, which enables users to nurture their relationships through active engagement, according to the website.

The app’s features include a map of friends’ locations across the U.S., a notes section to record important information about contacts and their goals and a calendar to track notable events. ZooWho also allows users to send a message, email or call contacts through the app.

The app even sends users reminders of events like upcoming birthdays and allows users to purchase gifts through the app.

“Anniversaries baptisms, bar mitzvahs, you name it,” Bair said. “Really, any sort of event can be captured.”

Bair said another reason he created ZooWho is because social media often contributes to surface-level interactions, rather than nurturing relationships. Though Facebook does remind users of important birthdays and other events, Bair said the heads-up is typically the day of, and writing on their “feed” with 30 other people is insincere and doesn’t advance relationships.

BYU public relations student and ZooWho product marketing manager Claire Shaner agreed that social media does not facilitate meaningful relationships.

“There are so many ways to connect through social media, and technology has made it easy to get in touch with somebody. But because it’s so easy, it’s often superficial,” she said.

Shaner said she believes ZooWho will “help people come closer together.” She is a ZooWho user herself, and said the app reminded her of her dad’s birthday with plenty of notice so she could send him a card on time.

BYU public relations student Jenna Dalton said she has memory loss, but ZooWho helps her remember important facts about the people she’s close with.

“I really like it because I love my friends and my family and getting gifts for people,” she said. “Having a central app where I can put all that information has been super helpful.”

Dalton said she even talked about ZooWho in a church presentation and cited it as a way to advance ministering. She also noted that the app can help college students be more organized.

“At BYU, there are so many students, and we have so many different connections in our ward and places we live and jobs and classes. … We know people from so many different ways that it’s hard to keep track of who likes what or who does what,” she said. “So having an app where I can put all that is super helpful.”

ZooWho is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

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