Students Launch Mobile App to Spotlight Campus Social Scene

Credit: Owen Mortner

On Jan. 19, Spotlyte, an app designed to help Swarthmore students find and host social events, launched successfully, gaining over 400 downloads in under a week. The app’s launch came after 11 months of hard work, constant improvements, and an initial setback. 

Spotlyte was originally designed for SwatTank, an innovation competition hosted by the Center for Leadership and Innovation (CLI) in February, but did not place as a finalist. Despite this, sophomore co-founders Chad Kemmerer, Zane Kleinberg, Noah Edgar, and Andrew Moy decided to continue developing the app. They felt the campus was more secluded post-COVID and students were privately organizing small events, rather than larger ones that created a sense of community. 

“Swarthmore has a huge culture of traditions and different things that they’ve done in the past,” said Kemmerer, the CFO and Head of Business Development. “We wanted to really foster a sense of community within the culture at Swarthmore, and really build it back — bring people together.”

A month after SwatTank, the founders expressed interest to the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) in making their business plan a reality. Through the CLI and OSE, Spotlyte was able to complete legal paperwork, connect with relevant alumni, and form a plan for an eventual expansion to other colleges. 

Kemmerer worked on the strategy and marketing of the app and talked to mentors with experience in startups and entrepreneurship to learn the necessary steps for successfully launching Spotlyte. 

“We thought we knew what we wanted, but [it was important] to build something that would help OSE and SGO as well as our close-knit friend group,” said Kleinberg, the CTO and Head of Product Development. 

Kleinberg was the lead developer of Spotlyte and spent the summer of 2022 developing and revising the code for the app. 

Kemmerer and Edgar would bring design ideas to Kleinberg, who incorporated them into an alpha design to be tested with friends during the Fall 2022 semester.

“He [Kleinberg] is the only coder we have,” said Edgar, COO and Vice President of Product Development. “He’s our real developer. He is at the heart of everything that we do at Spotlyte.”

According to Kleinberg, Spotlyte uses an algorithm to recommend two types of events: ones that would fit your interests and ones that “expand your horizons.” The algorithm was one of the hardest parts of the app to create since it had to simultaneously recommend both. Creating the algorithm’s logic and making it efficient took up a large portion of the summer.

“I spent a lot of time just sitting and getting angry because things weren’t working well enough and they had to be really easy for everyone to use,” Kleinberg said. “It’s a constant refining process: listening to people, getting feedback, and continuing to reiterate.”

Even after the app was published, changes and improvements continued to be made, such as a User Interface (UI) graphic issue on smaller phones which Kleinberg quickly resolved in an update. Other than small changes, the app has been relatively bug-free as shown in early testing, and has displayed potential for expansion, according to Edgar

“What’s nice is when we were doing it with the alpha testers, we were just checking bug fixes,” Edgar said. “We weren’t really checking behavior and how well users can interact with the app. We were having them [close-friend testers] make a bunch of fake events because we were all on winter break. It’s great to see that there are actual events on it now. It always amazes me when I go on there and I see that someone actually put something on it.” 

Anyone can make an event, post it as public or private, and use tags to ensure those with similar interests see it. Users can also choose to create “Invite Only” apps which are only visible to invited friends. Most types of events can be posted, ranging from a casual movie night to a large party. A recent event was the Retro Ski Party, held Jan 21 at Olde Club which was advertised on Spotlyte and received a large attendance 

With a name that represents the team’s dream of spotlighting events, Kemmerer, Kleinberg, and Edgar hope Spotlyte will benefit club leaders who can post meetings, see who will be attending, and promote their club outside of the bi-annual club fairs. 

“This is so fun! I haven’t been on the party scene for a bit so an app like this seems exciting,” Emmaline Dagget ’24 said. 

Next, Spotlyte hopes to expand to the Tri-College Consortium, become available for Android users, and eventually spread to other colleges, where they can license it to generate revenue. 

“We noticed this type of app, especially with the recommendation feature, would be a lot more effective at larger schools where there are more events going on,” Edgar said. 

For this semester though, the founders hope to grow the app in its original home and benefit as many Swatties as possible. 

“What do we see firsthand as college students? How can we not just benefit ourselves but benefit people in the same shoes as us?” Kemmerer said. “If we could be the go-to source of how a freshman on their first day on a college campus discovers events and finds really cool people they want to interact with, it would be amazing.” 

Spotlyte can be downloaded through the App Store or at

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