Creating connection through food: Sauder student creates app to counter social isolation

Transformative Learning | Strategy 13: Practical Learning
Theme: Innovation
Arnav Mishra (far right) and the DYNE team are building their venture under the guidance of veteran entrepreneurs at entrepreneurship@ubc.

Arnav Mishra, a third-year Bachelor of Commerce student with the Sauder School of Business, has developed a technology platform called DYNE that makes it easy for university students to meet up at local restaurants. DYNE was borne out of Mishra’s twin desire to launch some sort of venture and address the social isolation so many university students experience, himself included.

When Mr. Mishra arrived from India and moved into UBC student housing in the fall of 2018, he found making friends was more challenging than managing his academics. “Whenever I went to a cafeteria or restaurant for dinner, I saw students like me dining alone while looking at their phones and making no effort to talk to the person beside them,” recalls Mr. Mishra. “I realized that we have all become so dependent on our phones, we need help in starting conversations, so I started to think about a business idea that would bring students together and help them socialize.”

The following school year, Mr. Mishra, who is specializing in Business Technology Management, created a technology platform called Food Buddy. The premise was similar to a dating site, but emphasized food and friends. UBC students enrolled and created a profile that included their faculty, academic focus and food interests. During the first three months of 2020, about 250 student meet-ups took place every week through DYNE. Adoption was growing steadily as word spread among friend groups.

Then COVID-19 hit. “The UBC campuses closed and restaurants shut down. At that point, my team didn’t see the point of continuing and they all quit,” says Mr. Mishra. 

“COVID-19 posed serious challenges to the team’s business model,” says Fraser Pogue, Sauder Adjunct Professor and one of Mishra’s mentors. “You can shut down restaurants, put restrictions in place, but you can’t put people’s emotional desire on pause. What this does is create new opportunities to support those individuals longing for connections.”

Mr. Mishra went back to business basics and recruited a new team. Together, they learned how to code and developed a mobile app, which launched for beta testing in July 2020.

Visit the Sauder School of Business website to read the full story and to see what’s coming up for DYNE.

Through Strategy 13: Practical Learning, UBC is committed to working to deepen and better co-ordinate strong industry and community relationships and connections.