Meet the member: Umii

Exchange member develops app to combat loneliness at university

When people envision university, they picture making friends, experiencing new, exciting things and moving away from home, but for some, university can be an incredibly lonely experience.

Entrepreneur, Georgia Wheadon, fell into the latter group. She struggled to meet people and make lasting friendships, which led to feelings of isolation and took such a toll on her overall mental health that she almost dropped out of university.

Now, Georgia has created an app to help students avoid the situation she was in by encouraging them to make friends and stay connected while at university. Umii is designed to act as a preventative measure against loneliness and isolation, whether that is new students wanting to make connections before term time, or existing students who want to expand their circle. Umii connects students based on their course, societies and interests to support long-lasting friendships.

Georgia said: “I found that there just wasn’t an easy way to meet people outside of my halls or course. We do everything on our phones now, ordering taxis, finding relationships, managing our bank accounts, without ever actually having a conversation with someone. In a society like this, walking up to someone in the Union to have a conversation probably wouldn’t happen, and would require nerves of steel.”

Umii is one of the member businesses in the second cohort of Exchange start-ups – a group of ambitious early-stage tech companies that benefit from mentoring, facilities in Department Bonded Warehouse and a network of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Over the next six months, the Umii team is aiming to secure 14 live customers, increase the percentage of the student population using the app at each university, and introduce third party revenue streams. So far, Umii has a total of eight university customers – The University of Bolton, The University of Hull, Wrexham Glyndwr University/Wrexham Glyndwr Students’ Union, Uclan Students Union, The University of Bath, The University of Essex Students’ Union, The University of Salford /The University of Salford Students’ Union, and The University of Lincoln, with over 8,000 users on the platform and 100,000 messages have been exchanged by users.

Georgia continued: “We want to see Umii really have an impact. Once Umii is more widely implemented in universities across the UK, we believe it will reduce the number of students experiencing loneliness and lower the university dropout rate. We want to be the first app students download when they arrive at uni and to continue to use it throughout their university career.”

Earlier this year, Umii secured £1 million in investment and is aiming to continue to develop, expand and hire on the Exchange scheme.

Georgia said: “We’re so excited to network and build an exciting community of founders. Previously, I’ve been working on Umii alone in my room and I think moving into a more collaborative setting will open up new opportunities that I never knew existed. In addition, the team has really missed face-to-face meetings – our last one in June was so productive and energizing, so it will be great for that to become the norm.”

To find out more about Umii, visit Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or the website.