UBMe, an app created in Bethlehem and used in over 54 countries, allows people to connect with others around them, whether it be on college campuses or in public areas such as bars, restaurants or concert venues.
Users who check in with the app can see who is at a given location, view what events are happening in their area and receive potential discounts at local restaurants. More than 5,000 events are pinned throughout the United States.
Creator and Bethlehem resident Val Arzunian saw potential for his app to allow people to connect. However, connecting isn’t where the idea came from.
Arzunian initially thought of his app after ending a relationship. He and his ex often bumped into each other, and Arzunian thought it would be useful to have an app that lets people know who’s in a restaurant or bar before walking in.
UBMe allows users to check into their current location and chat with others who are in the same place. Arzunian gave the example of going to a restaurant for the first time and not knowing what’s a good dish. Users can ask others within the restaurant for suggestions.
“The app is a good way for people to connect,” Arzunian said. “It allows them to explore the local area. That’s usually one of the first things students do when they go to college.”
Arzunian has worked out deals with several South Side businesses. Users can receive deals by walking into an establishment and checking in to the business on UBMe. For example, they can get two free slices of pizza from Sal’s Brick Oven Pizza, 10 percent off at U & Tea or a free cup of coffee at Lit Coffee Roastery and Bakeshop. He is currently working on getting a deal for Playa Bowls.
The app has a map pinpointing where events occur, which can be especially useful when visiting a new city. Students can venture to New York or Philadelphia and know what’s going on without having to do prior research.
“You can look at a map and see what’s going on when and where,” UBMe campus representative Noelle Jacobsen, ’18, said. “It’s cool because students don’t know about a lot of events going on on campus. It’d be really useful if everyone got on board and posted more events.”
Arzunian and Jacobsen hope the app helps people cross the division among groups at Lehigh. Jacobsen said UBMe could make campus seem a lot bigger than it is by giving a consolidated list of multiple organizations’ events, which also gives organizations a bigger platform to advertise on.
They hope students will use the app to engage with the local community, in addition to the Lehigh community.
Jacobsen said UBMe can also be used to meet others in a dorm building or other areas across campus.
“(Residence) halls have their GroupMes, but students don’t get a chance to really meet most of the people in their building,” Jacobsen said. “They can check in and meet others that live in their building outside of their hall.”
Arzunian said this feature could have multiple applications. Chats could either be public or private with a password function.
Jacobsen got involved with UBMe as a way to supplement her business minor. She said she was able to expand her marketing skills through events and games made to promote the app.
“We had a treasure hunt at Musikfest,” Jacobsen said. “People had to check in at various spots to get a clue and all the clues led to a treasure box filled with gold coins.”
Greek chapters are also involved in a contest to spread awareness for the app. The competition has three rounds with prize money, which is sent to the winner’s philanthropy.
The creator said he is working on new features for the app, including the ability to see which chats are more active than others. Sound emojis have also recently been added to UBMe, and Arzunian thinks this will be the hook for the app.
Jacobsen said the UBMe office remains in South Bethlehem, located on Fourth Street, as the city of Bethlehem offers incentives to new tech startups to stay in the city.
After hearing about UBMe’s features, Malika Kumbella, ’19, said she would download the app. She likes that chats can be set by location, rather than needing to be added to a group like GroupMe does.
“I would definitely use the app because of the deals,” Kumbella said. “That’s a good incentive to venture and be part of the South Side community.”