A University student and member of the men’s football team, Austin Kevitch ’14, has turned his passion for scholarship and athletics into a passion for entrepreneurship.
In December, Kevitch launched the application Brighten in the iTunes app store. Brighten, a social app with a positive culture, allows users to post anonymous compliments, inside jokes, or anything to “brighten” someone’s day.
“Apps like YikYak and Secret are pretty much just location-based anonymous message boards. They require practically zero identification verification when signing up, and that can be fun for engagement but also really dangerous. Sometimes it’s positive, and sometimes it can also be really, really bad. Out of all these anonymous social apps, Brighten is the only one with user profiles. Another differentiator is that Brighten is a follower/following based system, so you’re seeing posts from your friends. YikYak and Secret display posts from anyone, including people you don’t know, pretty much enabling an open forum. [With Brighten,] you can post anonymous compliments, inside jokes, or even ask your friends anonymous questions, but the main intention is to make someone’s day,” Kevitch said.
Kevitch became inspired to invent Brighten during his study abroad trip to Cape Town, South Africa in the spring of 2013. In January 2013, Kevitch met Oliver Pacchiana, then an engineering student at the University of Pennsylvania, captain of the Penn Electric Racing team, and a sousaphonist in the Penn Band. On March 31, 2013, Oliver passed away in a rock climbing accident while abroad.
“After he passed, I noticed friends from throughout his life began posting on his Facebook wall, expressing their heartfelt appreciation and reminiscing on their positive memories of Oliver. Inspired, my friend Alec and I decided to perform a little social experiment. We bought a box, a pen, and a pack of sticky notes, and then left our newly created ‘compliment box’ on a table outside our campus house. Within hours, the box was overflowing with anonymously written compliments,” Kevitch said.
Since then, Kevitch took his idea to the Kairos Society Global Summit in New York, to which he was invited to share his concept in February 2013. The Bucknell School of Management and University alumni helped provide transportation to the summit. While there, Kevitch was introduced to JA Arce, one of the developers on Kevitch’s team.
“He loved my idea, and put me in touch with an iOS developer who would later go on to code the back-end of Brighten. I wrote up the original specifications for the Brighten app and also designed the wireframes while on the 18-hour plane ride back to Africa (from NYC),” Kevitch said.
Kevitch turned to his University studies for further inspiration when designing Brighten.
“While at Bucknell, I took Social Psychology with Professor [T. Joel] Wade and learned a ton about social norms. I had both social psychology and positive psychology in mind when designing Brighten. A University of Wisconsin-Madison study recently concluded that positivity or negativity within a community is the result of social norms. One of the most important controls of our behavior is the established norms within any given community. For the most part, we act consistently with the intended culture, and Brighten was built to serve as a positive culture,” Kevitch said.
Kevitch, along with the support of 2012 Boston College graduate Matt Misbin (COO), raised a seed round investment from LMN Ventures in New York City. Corinne Nevinny was Brighten’s first investor, pledging money to the development of the application.
In the future, Kevitch hopes that people worldwide will use the application to benefit others. Kevitch and his team have also completed a new prototype version of Brighten as an HR platform for companies to process, allowing co-workers to give positive feedback to one another. Currently, Kevitch and his team are in the process of developing new features for the application.
Various tech blogs, Uloop, and a writer from The Huffington Post have already reached out to Kevitch, expressing interest in spreading the word about Brighten. Kevitch hopes to work with these outlets and other media sources to foster positivity worldwide through Brighten.
“We want to make it ‘cool’ to be positive,” Kevitch said.