PHOTO BY Hillary Ehlen
Austin Braham, Nathaniel Thoreson and Mukai Selekwa, who all graduated from Fargo Davies High School and currently attend North Dakota State, realized there’s a large problem in their city: there’s a lot to do, but not a lot of people know about these events or opportunities.
Two years ago, they started a mobile application called Webblen, geared toward online advertising for one’s social media, but the three decided to change the direction of their company. The idea was to create an event notifier that would remove junk mail from users’ phones and help them find events they really care about. Webblen Events launched in late September.
Webblen gathers the interests of the users so when there is a local event that follows those interests, they will be notified. The event also shows up on their dashboard within the application. However, if there is an event going on around town that does not fit within their area of interest, they will not be notified and they won’t have that cluttering up their dashboard.
“We figured, why don’t we, who already have experience working together as a company and have experience living in Fargo, come up with a mobile application to allow you to see the things that are happening around you based on your interests?” Thoreson said.
The benefits of the app are twofold. When the user sees an event pop up from Webblen, they know they will have some interest in it. Businesses and event organizers then don’t have to send mass mailings out to people who don’t have interest in their event, goods or services.
Right now, Selekwa calls it a chicken and an egg situation. In order to populate Webblen with more events, they need users to put in those events. But then there’s the problem of event organizers not feeling inclined to put in more events if there aren’t any listed already on the app. The Webblen creators are taking on the burden to reach out to different organizations and putting the events in themselves. The goal, though, is to have anyone able to create an event to make the app self-sustaining and self-populating.
It is currently $5 per event to be pushed to all of Fargo. In the coming months, however, Webblen is moving to a variable pricing model based on the notification diameter, or how far the notification will be pushed from where the event is happening. The further the event is pushed, the cheaper per mile it will be. The creators are also open to coming up with a pricing model for larger clients, such as companies and organizations based on their needs.
“What I personally want is for this to be an application that interacts with the user more than the user interacts with it,” Selekwa said. “Then it can be used as a word-of-mouth application, one that people would find it cheaper to advertise events on while also reaching out to a larger crowd more efficiently.”
A couple weeks after the launch, the app was just above 230 users, a number the creators are happy with considering it still has big updates to come. The hope is to work with fraternities and sororities and other groups on NDSU’s campus, along with the downtown community, and spread it out from there.
“The term that we’re kind of coining is we want it to become the app of Fargo,” Thoreson said. “We want to be the one-stop shop for everything that is going on around you.”
Webblen became a registered business two years ago and changed directions about a year later. Thoreson and Selekwa began working on the project and during the development of it, Braham joined the team as the director of finance and strategy. Thoreson is the director of communications and does a lot of the reaching out to companies and organizations. Selekwa is the director of vision and technology and is responsible for the coding of the app.
Thoreson and Selekwa are sophomores at NDSU while Braham is a junior. They all expect Webblen to grow slowly before word spreads quickly and it explodes. The team tries to push out updates every one to two weeks with a large scale update coming that will make it a self-sufficient system.
“The real intent of the application is to bring the community together by broadening horizons and showing people how much there really is to do around Fargo,” Braham said.
About The App: Webblen Events
Webblen Events is Fargo’s event application. The app interacts with and notifies you of what’s going on according to your interest and location.