Quick Pitch: Wander is a free app that connects penpals and Instagram.
Genius Idea: Gives users the opportunity to immerse themselves in new cultural experiences through their iPhones.
Do you dream about traveling or backpacking through the world and meeting people from different walks of life? Well now you can get closer to that experience with Wander, a free iPhone app that connects penpals with Instagram.
Through photo-based conversation threads, Wander allows users to view and participate in the lives of foreign peers in different parts of the world while also sharing their own lives and surroundings. The one-to-one media-sharing makes the world smaller by connecting strangers on opposite sides of the world through cultural exchanges.
“We realized most social apps are only about saying hello” says Darien Brown, CEO of Wander. “What Wander does is create impossible connections with people who you would never meet, allowing users to explore life in other countries in an interactive, meaningful way.”
To get started with Wander, users have to download the free app to their iPhone and then create a simple profile that includes their age, gender, interests and a profile image. Users can also sign in with their Facebook accounts.
Each day, Wander shows you a new available “guide” or someone in the world who you can connect with. For example, a woman from Japan named Miho may show up on your screen and you can choose whether to connect with her or not.
Connect with new guides across the world.
Once you accept a guide, the app connects the two of you together for a week with photo-based missions. For example, the app will suggest you take pictures of your daily routines such as what you ate for lunch that day, how you travel to work or what your favorite store is. After taking the pictures, you and your guide drop them into the conversation thread so that you can share and discuss the differences and similarities in your countries.
Share your world through photo-based conversations.
Wander’s built-in translation feature lets users translate text to be able to converse with their guides.
After the week is over, users are given a new guide in another part of the world to connect and share their experiences with.
The idea of Wander was inspired by YangoPal, an app that Brown started as a marketplace for foreigners to hire students from American universities to teach them english. The app however, wasn’t successful because users were using it as a social tool to meet foreigners rather than to teach them english.
Brown then decided to pair up two university students from two different countries in a chatroom and give them photo-based missions similar to the ones given in Wander. After seeing how much the strangers were conversing and sharing content, he pitched the idea of Wander during 500Startups and received funding to develop the app.
Now with up to 12,000 app downloads and nearly 1,100 photos shared each week, Wander is attracting aspiring travelers around the world.
“Wander feeds the fantasy of travel in a richer, more interactive way by connecting users with human beings,” says Brown. “The experience feels more real when there is a human on the other side letting you be part of their life and daily routines.”
Many of Wander’s users are Chinese foreigners who are meeting foreigners for the first time through the app, Brown told Mashable. Several users have also told Brown that they applied for their first passports after using Wander.
Although a business model for the app is still in development, Wander’s team is currently discussing charging a fee for users who want to narrow their search results by finding a guide in a specific location.
The app will soon be available for Android devices.
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