When does add/drop end? When will the finals schedule be released? These are all questions many McGill students struggle to find the answer to online, and that is where WildCard comes in.
Tom Zheng and Randeep Singh started WildCard with a simple concept in 2011. According to Zheng, “It started as a card that provided people with monetary incentives to go out—a free drink at a club, free cover on certain nights.” Their aim was to connect businesses with students who enjoy nightlife.
The company launched a mobile app in January 2012 to act as a platform to satisfy this need of connecting businesses with students. Zheng, former VP academic for the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), realized that the problems faced by the AUS and businesses were pretty similar.
“How do you connect with people who would actually benefit [from] connecting with you?” explained Zheng. In the pursuit of answering this fundamental question, Zheng and his team embarked on a journey to bridge students needing this information and societies, like the AUS, who are providing it.
As VP Academic, he interacted with many U2 and U3 students who were posing questions such as “What is the meaning of primary curriculum on Minerva?” despite having attended the school for several years. These types of questions made Zheng pay attention to this communication barrier.
“There was no uniform place to give all this important and pertinent academic information to students,” Zheng said. The existing channel was just not efficient. According to Zheng, listservs have an opening rate of about 20 per cent, and even then, not all those clicks mean that +the student has thoroughly read the email.
People also do not often use Facebook and Twitter profiles to check school-related information.
“People go on to Facebook or Twitter to waste time,” said Zheng. “To look at things like ‘25 reasons not to do something’ [… they go online] with an aim to socialize.”
Zheng explained that these forms of media are not the appropriate channels to be relaying serious or academic information.
“McGill not being able to fill up stadiums for games is being attributed to apathy,” said Zheng. He continued to explain, however, that there are students who really want to be a part of the community, but are unable to find the relevant information.
All of these factors led to the question, ‘Can an app be a solution?’ Zheng argues an app for these societies do not need to be as interactive as Facebook or Twitter, but merely act as a platform and a channel to send push notifications about important deadlines and events.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you got a reminder one day before add/drop period ends so you don’t forget?” He asked.
Some of the most noticeable features of the app are its simplicity in design. Compared to its past use in nightlife deals, the app’s primary function is now to act as a portal to information. Settings subscribe users to notifications according to their year and major. The app also included bonus features, such as shortcuts for ordering food and a link to call a cab directly—which, as Zheng explained, were extremely useful during frosh. WildCard was also mindful in picking a taxi service provider that accepts credit cards so students are not faced with the problem of not having enough cash on hand.
To date, the company is working with three university organizations at McGill, two at Concordia, and have expanded to Queen’s and HEC (École des Hautes Études commerciales de Montréal).
To conclude, Zheng remarks, “If we could measure an increase in the number of students informed about what is going on at McGill that is what I would consider as success for the product.”