App helps friends share travel adventures

How often do you find yourself planning a trip and wondering what there is to do when you get there? Brothers Colby Wise (B.S. Finance ’10) and Corey Rizzi-Wise, on track to complete his business data analytics degree in 2016, had the same question. That’s how the idea for their app, Traverse, was born.

Both brothers have traveled abroad extensively and often turn to their friends when trying to decide how to spend time in each particular location. But, “posting questions on Facebook to friends doesn’t work anymore. No one responds,” said Rizzi-Wise. “How much different would your trip be if your friends could send you a list of seven must-see places or a starting and ending point of what to do in a particular city?”

Traverse is an iOS app that allows you to create maps of your favorite places and activities around the world and share your adventures with others. One feature that sets Traverse apart from other apps is that the infrastructure is built on a user’s personal network.

“People trust their friends’ opinions more than some guy Bob on Yelp or some ‘guru’ on Foursquare,” said Rizzi-Wise. He wanted to capitalize on those connections.

The other big feature is the incorporation of actionable content.

Says Rizzi-Wise: “We have friends who have been to amazing places, who have had fun times, but we wouldn’t know to do those things if they didn’t tell us. How would we know where to ride elephants in Thailand or the best beaches in California?”

The adventure begins

Last summer, Corey was in New York, as a data science intern for the Goldman Sachs Group Inc., when he met up with his brother, Colby, who pitched him the idea.

“That’s when we really began hammering out the strategy behind Traverse,” said Rizzi-Wise. Their first big development happened at “Startup Weekend” New York in May, a 54-hour weekend event where developers, business managers and startup enthusiasts pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams and work to develop a working demo.

“We wanted to spend time with other people in the industry who were doing similar things. We wanted to know how startups raise money. What does it look like to add developers to the team? Startup Weekend was a great way to get exposure and idea validation for what we wanted to create,” said Rizzi-Wise.

They spent 16 hours over the weekend learning from a development team and hacking together a rudimentary iOS app. At the end of Startup Weekend they ranked third among the 16 other teams that participated.

Once he returned to Arizona, Rizzi-Wise reached out to his network and expanded the Traverse team to include ASU engineering students Sam Wang and Ahmed Moussa, along with designer Michael Mirandi.

Unexpected obstacles lead to hands-on learning experience

The challenges, however, were just beginning. In the process of launching Traverse, they uncovered more than 20,000 bugs in the code that needed to be fixed. The team had to learn how to use a cloud-based database and implement object-oriented programming in multiple ways.

They even had to learn a new technology, called Neo4j, that takes database information and creates connections, which was a vital piece needed in order to pull up graphical representations of various locales.

“We still have more functionality we want to add to the app. We also want to make sure what we’ve created is something users want and that it continues to solve users’ problems in an efficient way,” said Rizzi-Wise.

A strong foundation

Rizzi-Wise credits Professor Matthew McCarthy’s CIS 105 class for his interest in cloud computer and data. When he learned he could major in business data analytics, Rizzi-Wise knew it would be a great fit. “I jumped in,” he said.

“My business data analytics classes gave me the ability to understand and articulate what technology should do, what it can do and what is the best possible scenario,” said Rizzi-Wise.

“I’m learning some groundbreaking things. Majoring in business data analytics was good because it gave me the skillset to make this idea come to life.”

Although the Traverse app launched in the Apple App Store in January with little fanfare, they anticipate more than 2,000 users by the end of the month.

The Traverse team is also applying to tech incubators like Y Combinator and AngelPad.

“Hopefully, we’ll be hearing good news soon,” said Rizzi-Wise.