Tuck student's app 'Nudg' helps manage personal relationships

by Abby Mihaly | 5/29/18 2:40am

Many of us have forgotten to call, text or otherwise contact those we are close to. Angela Orzell Tu’19 is working to design an application to solve this problem — Nudg, a personal relationship manager.

According to Orzell, Nudg manages contacts and reminds users to reach out to those with whom they may be forgetting to keep in touch. A prototype of the app will be presented at Technigala, a science-fair style presentation for the computer science department and Digital Art Leadership and Innovation students, in Baker-Berry Library on Wednesday evening.

Orzell said that while in today’s society it may be easy to text or call someone, it can be just as easy to forget to follow up with others.

“We’re just overwhelmed by the number of people we need to network with, both professionally and personally,” said DALI director and computer science lecturer Tim Tregubov.

When Orzell found herself manually entering data into a spreadsheet to keep track of networking contacts during a prior job, she said she realized there must be a more efficient way to stay organized.

Nudg organizes contacts — from closest friends to one-time business acquaintances — and can group them according to importance, Orzell said.

When a user first downloads the app, Nudg will use an algorithm to see how often they have followed up with each contact in the past. The app can then nudge users to reach out to their contacts within this period of time. One of the main screens will provide both overdue and upcoming nudges.

As winner of the DALI Grand Prize at the 2018 Dartmouth Pitch, Orzell received support from DALI and the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network. DEN awarded her $1,000 and DALI provided $8,000 worth of work in the form of a five-student team to help develop the app, according to Tregubov.

“I think it’s cool for the students to work on,” Tregubov said, noting that DALI students learn as they work on projects like Nudg.

DEN Ventures also provided an associate this term to help Orzell better understand how other social media apps are generating profit. Orzell said the Tuck School of Business has also provided mentorship through its first-year project program.

After the DALI team conducted user research, the app evolved away from a professional focus toward a more friendship-based function, according to Orzell.

Regina Yan ’19, a member of the DALI project team, said that the project’s target group remains Millennials. This meant removing functions for the app like a business card scanner, she said.

Although Orzell said it is generally easier to monetize an app focused on the business market, she and her team “think the bigger need is actually for the consumers and for the individual.”

In addition to reminding users who to contact, the app allows users to set preferences for their method of communication, such as calling rather than texting one’s grandmother, Orzell said.

The app also gives insight into who users are speaking to the most and through what medium of communication. Orzell said it is important to understand the big picture of social media usage, in order to have a better sense of the user data large companies such as Google and Amazon possess.

“We’re doing things every day and we sometimes forget that all of that information is still being saved,” Orzell said.

Team members Paula Mendoza ’19 and Yan both said they were optimistic regarding the future of the project.

Tregubov said Orzell is “very gung-ho,” noting that “the thing that differentiates projects that end up going somewhere is just how much hustle the founders put into it.”

Mendoza added that Orzell is a “very involved partner,” emphasizing that it is beneficial to have someone so passionate about their project.

“This is her brain child … this is something that she’s working on constantly,” she said.

Orzell said she hopes to continue working on the app in the future. According to her, next steps include beta testing, such as launching the app within the Tuck community. She also said various security risks and privacy concerns need to be addressed before the app can launch in an app store.

Orzell said the team has a “click-through shell of the app” for Technigala, though it is still working on some back-end development.

According to Yan, one of the biggest benefits of these demos will be the chance to observe users.

“We were watching someone interact with it and they couldn’t figure out what this button did, or they clicked on this and it crashed,” Tregubov said. “Usually what happens is, if it’s internal testing, the team knows what they built so they always use it the same way.”

Mendoza is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.