First-year Olive Baerde, the founder of startup app Buddy, cuddles with an oversized teddy bear on Nov. 17. (Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily)

Students launch app to connect students through cuddling

A group of students is launching a startup app called “Buddy” in an effort to connect Tufts students seeking community through cuddling, among other things, according to project founder Olive Baerde.

The startup’s team of developers includes Baerde, co-founder Stephan Green and programmers Khaliun Narangerel, Deepanshu Utkarsh and Isaac Colins. All five are first-years.

Baerde said she felt that Tufts students, especially first-years and international students, need a more effective method of connecting with new people.

“As someone who is leaving their home for a new city, a new environment, sometimes you are lacking that human connection because your friends, your family are no longer here,” Baerde said.

The app would connect Tufts students looking for people to cuddle with, do activities with or simply have a conversation with, she said. Baerde clarified she does not envision the app as another version of Tinder but rather as a way for students to meet each other in a relaxed environment.

The app in its original form was called “Cuddle Up” and focused solely on connecting students interested in meeting new people through cuddling, she said.

“I feel like people at Tufts are more open, and lots of times I feel like many great conversations start from cuddling,” Baerde said. “Once you start cuddling with someone, you guys are much closer. Even though you don’t really know each other that well, you feel comfortable talking to each other.”

Baerde and Green attended a coaching night on Nov. 3, organized by Tufts Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies Program, during which students talk to Tufts professors of the practice about their startups. After speaking with the professors, Baerde found that her idea could expand beyond cuddling.

“I realized what I want is not just cuddling,” Baerde said. “Cuddling is a base point, but I want to eventually make Tufts feel more together, more like a family, because for me I feel like Tufts is my home.”

Baerde renamed the app “Buddy” and began trying to gauge student interest through a Facebook page.

According to Green, they are also working on a photo campaign to publicize the startup and to show students that they are not alone in wanting to form connections with new people.

“We are planning to [encourage] people to start coming and see what it feels like and how natural it is to start [friendships] by cuddling, so we can put up some of those pictures on our website,” Green said.

In order to appeal to a wider range of interests, Baerde explained that the app will also have a message board component, in which students can post information about activities they want to do so that other students can participate too.

Utkarsh said that the app would ease the sometimes-difficult process of meeting new people.

“You’re forced to go out of your comfort zone and talk to a stranger,” Utkarsh said. “It’s easier on an app but harder in real life, so the app is where the connection starts and real life is where it grows.”

To address security concerns about meeting up with strangers, Baerde emphasized that measures are being taken to ensure that students using the app are safe. The main safety feature is that students are required to register with their Tufts ID.

“The reason why you apply with your college ID is so that it gives you more liability,” Baerde said. “If anything goes wrong, based on the college ID, you know who is doing it.”

Baerde explained that for now, the app will not be open to students from other universities, because its purpose is primarily to bring Tufts students together and to help students meet people on campus they might not have otherwise met.

“No one wants to admit that they are lonely or that they are sad, stressed, depressed, so I just want people to see that connection,” Baerde said.

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