BYU grads launch app to promote social interaction

Kent Broadbent, James Stevens and Whitney Graham hold their prize money at the 2022 BYU app competition. After winning the competition, the three founders decided to work on developing the app full-time. (Photo courtesy of Kent Broadbent)

A new social app created by BYU alumni became available for public download on Friday, Sept. 1. The app, SmackSocial, allows people to easily organize hangouts and events, according to co-founders Kent Broadbent and Whitney Graham. 

Graham said the concept was born in November 2021 as a capstone project for her information systems management master’s program at BYU. 

She, Broadbent and their third partner at the time, James Stevens, went on to win their first pitch competition and close a six-figure investment deal in January 2022. A few months later in March 2022, they won BYU’s app competition, according to a statement from the team. 

Broadbent and Graham said they have since been developing the app full-time with their new partner, Braden Terry.

The first year they focused on developing the app and testing it with students on campus, Graham said. They have recently expanded the team, Broadbent said, adding three interns and two contractors. He said most of the team consists of BYU students and alumni.

Graham said she originally had the idea for an app that simplifies socializing because she loves hosting hangouts, but hates planning them. She once had a bad experience planning a campout with friends. 

“It ended up in like five different group chats … no one brought marshmallows or firewood … it just kind of became a logistics nightmare,” she said. 

The app makes things like inviting people to and communicating about activities easier and keeps it all in one place, according to Graham.

“This is the kind of app I wish had existed when I was a freshman,” Broadbent said. 

He said he experienced some social anxiety when he came to college, which sometimes prevented him from attending activities he was invited to. 

“Suddenly you stop getting invited … the idea of having an app where on a Friday night you can open it and see what your friends are doing and what you’re invited to, that’s something I wish had existed,” he said. 

According to Graham and Broadbent, app users can connect with friends, create permanent invite lists and events, make temporary group chats with people and see events that are happening locally.

Broadbent said hosts can either plan events far in advance, or send out invites to a spontaneous hang out where invitees have 15 minutes to respond before it goes away. 

Events do not always have to be formal, he said, but can be anything from a last-minute afternoon pickleball game to a movie night. 

Graham said the app also contains a blocking feature which shows if a blocked user is attending an event so they can be avoided. 

Eli Wright, a senior in the advertising program at BYU, joined the SmackSocial team at the beginning of the summer as a social media manager. 

He said the team wanted to stay away from pitching the app as a social media platform, and rather introduce it as an alternative to social media. 

“Social media is a timeline of things that happened without you, SmackSocial is a forward projection of fun things you can do,” he said. 

Unlike other social apps, the goal is not for users to post media and stay on the app scrolling, Broadbent said. It is to plan social lives and promote human interaction. 

“You’re not there to watch endless videos, you’re there to do stuff with your friends,” he said. 

The team launched SmackSocial to the public on Sept. 1 to cater to freshmen coming to campus and making new friends and social groups, according to Graham and Broadbent.

Utah Valley contains a dense population of young single adults and college students, so it made sense to launch the app in the area, Graham said. The team plans to expand their demographic and target more areas across the nation, starting with other college campuses. 

Broadbent said there are three types of accounts: personal accounts for individuals, organization accounts for clubs or wards; and business accounts. 

“The idea is that we want to make it accessible to all sizes of businesses, but especially the smaller local businesses,” he said. 

On Friday Sept. 8, SmackSocial is hosting a back to school party at Arlington Hall. Tickets can be purchased at the door or for a discounted price on the app.

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