Annie Barrett, '18

November 13, 2017
Senior launches social travel app for students studying abroad

When Annie Barrett, ’18, arrived in Copenhagen for her semester abroad, she was handed the same paper city guide that had been given to students year after year.

She found many of the businesses were shuttered, information was outdated, and newer hotspots had never been added. Not to mention, carrying a packet of paper around for four months felt more than a little strange to the digital native.

“This is such a digital world,” Barrett says. “It was absurd to me that I needed to look through my email and print out a guide that is so static and out of date.”

That’s when she got an idea for an app — kind of like Yelp, but only for students.

Barrett applied for a UR Summer Fellowship to support the app’s development. She doesn’t know how to code, but being involved in every step of development — from firming up the idea to beta testing — gave her a better understanding of the process.

“I could see behind the scenes on the initial beta versions,” she says. “I have access to all of the analytics and I see when things fail. It’s cool to be able to see what’s working and why.”

Through the fellowship, Barrett also gained a mentor in her marketing professor, Bill Bergman. In weekly check-ins, Bergman offered his guidance on finding an app developer, prototypes, and how to market the app post-launch.

In August, Barrett launched Viden — that’s the Danish word for “knowledge” — with a modern, phone-friendly, crowd-sourced guide for Copenhagen. Barrett was able to capture hundreds of students from colleges all over the country as they boarded planes for their own semester in Copenhagen. Already, they’re adding and searching for recommendations for city bike tours, can’t-miss destinations, and even where to go for dinner if parents come to town.

“The idea is to give students who are studying abroad access to insider information,” she says. “What to do before they arrive, places to go out, places to eat, places to see — all of the stuff you wouldn’t know unless you talked directly to a student who’s been there.”

While Barrett says there were no competitors when she started the work, two similar “social travel” apps launched around the same time as Viden. To stay competitive, Barrett has already expanded Viden to include a city guide for Madrid, and has plenty of ideas for how the app might evolve. She’d love to see more city guides and new social interaction features, as well as possibly expanding to other user audiences.

“Now that there are other apps doing very well, it shows that it’s a very big need for people,” she says. “When they travel, they want to be able to connect and understand and find common ground.”