Meet Brandon Alster, Co-Founder of Merge Social
You just got out of Econ 101 lecture, and you only have 30 minutes to grab a quick bite to eat before you’re off to AmCult 202. You pull out your phone and scramble to text anyone who you think may be around to stop by Amer’s or Revive. You pace in front of Lorch Hall, scrolling past the same Instagram repetitively as you await a response. After what seems like a lifetime, the reply texts start to flood in.
“Sorry, stuck in Chem ‘til 1!”
“I ate before my Psych class at 12, like every Tuesday.”
As the ‘sorry’ texts finish blowing up your phone, your time has run out. It’s 12:49 and now, you’ve only got two options: pulling a Steven Glansberg cameo at Beanster’s…
… or dealing with a grumbling stomach loud enough to be heard by an entire lecture hall.
As busy college students, we rarely have a second that can go to waste (exceptions: Netflix and public crying in the UGLi during finals season). So, scheduling is key. Downtime between classes is the perfect opportunity to both have lunch and simultaneously catch up with friends. But coordinating with different schedules… basically impossible. It’s a deadly situation that often leaves us requesting a table for one. Fortunately, you are not alone. Michigan Sophomores Brandon Alster and Danny Steinmetz faced the same problem their freshman year. Luckily for us, this duo decided to actually do something about it… unlike Steven Glansberg.
Here’s what cofounder Brandon Alster had to say about the scheduling app they created: Merge.
“I would get out of class and text and call my friends, but they were always busy,” Alster explains. “It would take 10 or 15 minutes before I’d finally find someone, and by that time, it was time for my next class. After talking to our friends, Danny and I realized that a lot of people face this problem.”
So, after months of what Alster called “dorm-room brainstorming,” followed by a summer of hard work (summer + hard work = ???), these two boys co-founded and successfully launched the Merge app.
Merge Social is a scheduling app geared towards Michigan students, and is available for free in the iTunes app store.
Here is how it works: after downloading, the user signs-in through Facebook or with their UMich ID. Users are prompted to input their weekly schedule, then the Michigan LSA Course guide will pop up, where you can search your classes by department (Ross and Kinesiology classes are listed as well). Next, the user will select their classes and input their respective discussion and labs. Once a schedule has been entered, users add friends via e-mail, their contacts, or Facebook. And boom, you’re ready to start Merging.
Once you’ve added buddies to your list, you’re able to see whether or not they are free for dinner plans or even just to hang out. If a friend is listed as free, you can click the Message tab and choose “Ask to Get Lunch,” “Ask to Chill” or simply “SMS,” and the app will drop you right into an iMessage/text message conversation with that user. Bonus convenience points: depending on what option you have chosen, “Wanna grab lunch?” or “Wanna chill?” will already be written out.
Merge is an innovative idea that has made day-to-day scheduling easier for over 3,000 Michigan student users.
“Everyone is busy during the day doing their own thing, so it’s hard to meet up for small things… Now, everyone’s schedules are the palm of your hand,” Alster said.
Merge launched on Michigan campus at the start of the Fall 2013 semester, and has yet to show signs of slowing down. Merge has an on-campus representative program where fellow students can help spread the word about Merge across campus, as well as brainstorm ideas for app development.
The two founders warn me to keep an eye out for app updates next semester, and they plan to expand to other universities in the following year.
A word of advice from a converted Merge user: search Merge Social in the app store, download and Merge On.