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Moving to a new city sounds invigorating, and it is, but this change can be just as difficult as it is rewarding.
61% of young adults in their 20s are experiencing high levels of loneliness, according to software engineering graduate Parker Callison and mechanical engineering graduate Samantha Moberly. Of this 61%, many are graduates who moved to a new city after college, they said.
As recent graduates themselves, Callison and Moberly understand just how daunting it can be to move away from one’s community and lose their support system.
Callison experienced this first-hand after he took a couple of years off from college. When he returned to school, most of his friends had already graduated. Callison said he struggled to create new relationships.
Additionally, Moberly regularly heard her friends in college express anxiety about how to meet new people post-grad and avoid feelings of loneliness. This anxiety stemmed from the fact that they would no longer be in classrooms or extracurriculars that surrounded them with people their age.
“Recent grads especially are experiencing this problem of loneliness and actively looking for a solution after they leave behind their college community,” Moberly said.
To create a solution to a problem that affected not only their friends but also themselves, Callison and Moberly teamed up to create their startup Social Spark, a social networking platform aimed to combat loneliness by helping recent college graduates create genuine friendships in their new cities.
Through Social Spark, users can sign up for weekend-long events in their new city. Trained leaders will guide these groups through a range of fun and dynamic activities that will help create new friendships. These leaders go through scenario-based training where they are provided tips on how to facilitate conversations and create deeper conversations between strangers.
They began developing their startup during their Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurial Senior Design Project course (ENGR 465), a team-based interdisciplinary senior design project that allows engineering and business students to collaborate and create new solutions to real-world problems.
Callison and Moberly explained that despite virtual connections through social media, people still feel lonely. Additionally, with the rise of remote jobs, many relocated graduates are creating very surface-level connections, they said. The co-founders wanted to create a healthier way for people to socialize, and that was through in-person events where deeper connections can be made.
“We really did not want to just be an app that connects people virtually,” Moberly said. “We want to bring people in person because we think real friendships are made in real life, face-to-face.”
After their senior project course, Callison and Moberly saw potential in their idea and applied to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CIE) Summer Accelerator, a 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.
Social Spark was one of the eight teams accepted to the program.
“We feel so fortunate to have all the mentors around us to support us,” Moberly said. “It has been amazing so far, having such a great support system.”
During the Summer Accelerator, Callison and Moberly aim to run several pilot events and gain valuable feedback. They hope to learn how to better facilitate friendships while creating events that are exciting and enjoyable, Callison explained.
The co-founders said they look forward to Social Spark’s potential in tackling feelings of isolation.
“If we can just help one person to feel less lonely, then that will be amazing on our end to get to see that impact,” Moberly said.
Social Spark, along with the rest of the 2023 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase their progress at Demo Day, on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. Tickets are available here.