Students develop Highkey social media app

When Facebook and Snapchat proved to be unreliable methods of finding community at their universities in Finland, Vili Väänänen, a student attending USC through its international exchange program, along with co-founder Max Prokopenko, started Highkey. The app allows students to be aware of the liveliest locations on the USC campus at any given time.

International exchange student Vili Väänänen co-founded the app to help students find popular events around campus. Erica Hur | Daily Trojan

“It’s an interactive map where students can upload multimedia content such as videos, pictures and text, and eventually in the upcoming week, comments about things that they see on campus in specific spots that we have designated,” said Ankit Shah, the Highkey Director of Marketing and a freshman in the world bachelor in business program.

Before attending USC, Väänänen and Prokopenko both studied in Finland at the Aalto University School of Business and Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, respectively.

They wanted a way to know where the parties and popular events were around campus. Although they resorted to Facebook, the two were unable to find specific details, such as the attendance numbers, of each event.

This experience was a catalyst for them to brainstorm an app that could help students stay up to date with popular social and academic events.

The application, called Populic in Finland, was originally launched last May and gained the attention of several Finnish social media celebrities, who began to promote it through their channels. According to Väänänen, Highkey became the number one trending app in their country two days after its release.

“For publicizing, we obviously have a different challenge over here because in Finland, we had social media stars and it’s very easy when you have a big country to promote your app,” Väänänen said. “But over here, [USC] is already quite small so we have to find the right people here.”

According to Sebastian Huang, the Highkey assistant marketing director and a freshman majoring in business administration, the app has a map of the campus that ranks the top events and locations in real time. At each location, students can post videos and pictures. The more content an event has, the more popular it becomes on the app. The hottest spots on campus will then glow, notifying users of where students are.

Although there are only default locations set, the team hopes to add a feature where students can add their own events onto the interactive map.

“There are already a lot of things that need to be improved and a lot of our core features aren’t in yet just because it takes so long for development,” Shah said. “Like one of our core features is we’re going to have a ‘Create Your Own Spot.’ If we were doing something cool in McCarthy Quad, I could create a spot and my friends could add to it. At the moment, there are only preset spots because we need to get more users on board.”

Huang said the app is more effective than other similar programs because of its distinct map feature.

“[With] Snapchat, you can only see where your friends are at all times,” Huang said. “But with our app, you can see where everyone is and that really instills a sense of community that Snapchat and Toga don’t really fulfill.”

As of now, Highkey is working to partner with campus organizations such as the Chinese American Student Association, Residential Education and Greek life to expand its reach at USC.

“I just hope organizations here can find that they can shout out their events in our app in a much more efficient way than Snapchat or Toga,” Väänänen said.