Doug Witte, '19, (far right), along with his childhood friends, are developing a new social media and messaging platform, Muze. Recognizing a new era of digital communication, Witte and his fellow developers designed Muze to allow users to communicate through multimedia, something not as accessible on other social media platforms. (Courtesy of Doug Witte)

Finding his muse: Lehigh student develops new social media platform Muze


For many, coming up with an idea for the “next big thing” usually remains just that: an idea.

However, for childhood best friends Doug Witte, ’19, Grant Davis and Willem Simons, they turned their dreams into a reality by creating a digital messaging platform that is gearing up to take the field of communication by storm.

Muze, though it is not yet released, is a social media and messaging platform with the goal of expanding the way people communicate.

Consisting of a social network, a new form of messenger and a content creation tool, Muze intends to allow its users to communicate in a multimedia fashion and to express themselves in a way that’s not possible on other social media platforms, according to the developers.

“These days when people text they don’t only text — they send images, GIFs, videos, memes, etc.,” Davis said. “We’re noticing that trend of how people are getting increasingly savvy and creative in their digital communication, and we’re noticing that no current platform actually caters to this increasing savviness and increasing expressiveness. So what we’re trying to do is give people the power to create whatever kind of content they want through a very simple to use editing tool and then combine it with the ability to share that content however they want in a medium that has far fewer constraints than what currently exists on any other platform.”

The app got its name from the definition of the word “muse,” which is a source of inspiration for a creative artist.

Davis said that the word “perfectly captured the essence” of their app, as its purpose is to inspire people to become more creative in the way they both communicate and express themselves.

“We think it could actually lead to a more creative society,” Davis said.

To focus on developing the program, Simons suggested that the trio take off from school. The three of them are currently on their third leave of absence from their respective universities.

Witte studied computer science and business at Lehigh, Davis studied computer engineering and physics with a math minor at Duke University and Simons studied economics and philosophy at the University of Delaware.

“Taking a break from school to develop Muze was probably the best decision that any of us have ever made,” Simons said. “We formed this very close tight-knit community of people who are all creative and are building something that we believe can change the world to become more creative and expressive.”

The idea for Muze originated two summers ago from a conversation over text between Witte, Davis and Simons.

At one point, Davis asked if the others can switch over to Facebook messenger since he wanted to communicate on his computer and didn’t have a Macbook at the time, thus the capability of texting via his computer.

“There was something my friend (Davis) was trying to get across that he couldn’t, and he just recognized that there was a severe lack of capability and a lot of constraints in current messengers that exist,” Witte said. “That conversation then kind of spiraled into well if we were to create the ideal messaging platform, what would that consist of?”

The process of building an app from scratch was somewhat rocky at the beginning, Davis said. He said they started developing the product on their own and then after realizing that was a little ambitious, they sought the need for more help and actual capital.

About a year after starting the project, they received investments and began expanding the team.

Fenner Stevens came on board in December and now assumes the title of CEO, where he is in charge of Muze’s business development and marketing strategies.

Stevens met Simons while studying in Prague. After speaking to Stevens about his app development, Simons eventually convinced Stevens to join their team.

“After I saw more of the potential I came on board,” Stevens said. “Since then, I’ve been looking at the product development as a whole and pairing that with business development, marketing strategy and finance strategy while they all have their heads buried in their own respective specialties.”

Though each of the founder’s positions interconnects, Witte serves as chief communication officer, Davis serves as chief technology officer and chief visionary officer and Simons serves as chief product officer and chief visionary officer.

As the project continues, Muze is in the process of attracting investors through meetings and presentations.

“Now we’re talking to people who say yes or no to putting their money on the line with us,” Stevens said. “So that’s how you really know it’s not just, ‘oh your app is amazing,’ in this very polite way. It’s, ‘your app is amazing, and I’m going to be risking multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars betting on that.’”

In regards to short-term goals for Muze, the team hopes to implement seed campuses wherein students will utilize the app, similar to the way Facebook originated at Harvard University.

“We have a few seed campuses were trying to get into,” Witte said. “Lehigh is one of them, of course, then also Princeton, Stanford and Duke.”

Witte said that one of his larger goals for Muze is for people to consider it a platform wherein they can be truthful and individualistic.

Though there is no set release date yet, the Muze team is hopeful to launch sometime this fall.

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  1. I hope that Muze will not include algorithms, or such, that censor political views from the left and right or from any other direction. What Google, Facebook and Twitter are doing to mute voices that they do not like is shameful. Please do not reinterpret thoughts to satisfy those of the Muze inventors.
    I hope that you will be successful and take business away from the three that I have mentioned.
    All the Best!
    Fritz Smith, Lehigh ChE 1953

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