Four years is simply not enough time to meet all of one’s classmates at Stanford, but two seniors have taken it upon themselves to make it easier for students to meet their peers.
Anna Zappone ’17 and Jessica Zhao ’17 are the creators of Ship, a matching app that arranges for users to meet at Stanford events. According to the creators, Ship is unique in that users do not actually choose who to meet — users make recommendations for who their friends should be paired with, or “shipped,” through the app. However, users do have the ability to answer personality-based questions to streamline the matching process.
Zappone and Zhao were two of six students who served as junior class presidents last year. One of their goals in that position was to bring people together — a goal that would eventually lead them to create Ship.
“One of the main reasons we wanted to be junior class presidents is we really did want to connect people in our class and foster more class unity and new connections,” Zappone said.
As junior class presidents, Zappone and Zhao created Get Paired, an online matching service that set up lunch dates between juniors. While Get Paired was a success, Zhao described it as “a lot of hand-matching, manual labor” and “a very tedious process”— but it laid the foundation for her and Zappone to create Ship.
Zappone and Zhao spent their senior autumn quarter brainstorming the app before writing the code over winter break. On Jan. 17, two days before the first senior night of winter quarter, Ship was launched.
Zappone estimated that 300 users joined Ship before the event and that about a thousand ships were arranged.
Although she said that at least one real-life couple has formed after meeting through the app, Zhao asserted that Ship is more than just a dating app. To that effect, users can select whether they are using Ship to pursue new friendships, relationships or both.
“Our idea behind Ship is that there are so many different types of ‘ships — friendships, relationships, partnerships — all those different types of human connection,” Zhao said. “People adapt Ship to whatever they’re looking for […] we’re just providing the service, and people can use it in any way they want.”
In the months since Ship’s release, Zappone and Zhao have worked to bring other communities into the fold. The app began with an exclusive focus on the senior class —“it seemed most natural that way, because we’re centering it around senior nights,” Zhao said — but just this month, Ship began adding Greek organizations as other communities within the app.
Zappone and Zhao said that additional communities, centered around other class years, clubs or even residences should be coming soon. They are also working on a feature that would enable communities to suggest events like a joint junior-senior night that could be added to Ship’s calendar.
“We really hope to expand to include all of Stanford by the end of this year,” Zappone said.
But for the time being, Ship remains exclusive to seniors and iPhone users. While Zhao did say that an Android app was “a priority,” she also suggested that she and Zappone would not be able to commit to it until they add another member or two to the crew.
“When we do make an Android app … we’ll probably just have to expand our team a little bit to make it more manageable in the future,” Zhao said. “But to do a detour of finding new members would stall the development of our product right now.”
Zappone and Zhao estimate that user count has doubled over winter quarter, with roughly one-third of the senior student body using the app.
Mackenzie Yaryura ’17, a Ship user, was pleased with how the app encouraged users to connect with others in person.
“I think we often use technology to avoid face-to-face interactions, and Ship is trying to tap into our culture of technology and leverage that to encourage relationship building,” Yaryura said.
Robert Wilkins ’17, also a former junior class president, praised the app as “a great way to get people in our grade to meet people that they might feel no incentive to meet otherwise with so little time left at Stanford.”
“As seniors, I feel like there’s the misconception that people are no longer looking for new friends,” Wilkins added. “But I definitely always love meeting new people.”
Contact Jacob Nierenberg at jhn2017 ‘at’ stanford.edu.