Who’s Down Launches to Streamline and Pandemic-Proof the Dartmouth Experience

arjun bhatt

When Arjun Bhatt (D’20) was an undergraduate advisor (UGA) at Dartmouth, new students would regularly ask him why they were getting so many emails each day. Bhatt pointed the finger at Dartmouth’s listserv that allowed events to advertise to the entire student body.

“If your club has a meeting, you email the whole campus, which is a little inefficient,” Bhatt explained. “There’s a club at Dartmouth called Smart Woman Securities, for women who are into finance. I like to say, I’m not smart, not a woman and not into securities, but every time they met I got an email about it.”

Too many emails might seem like a first-world problem, but it undermines the whole social community on campus, Bhatt said. Students who were sick of getting so many notifications might just unsubscribe from the listserv, cutting themselves off from potential social opportunities. At the same time, individuals lacked the ability to advertise their own niche interests. “Dartmouth does a great job of selecting interesting, quirky, and unique students, and so much of the value of a Dartmouth education is derived from interacting with the student body.”

Bhatt knew there had to be a better way, so in the winter term of 2018 he entered The Pitch competition, then hosted by DALI Lab, and now hosted in partnership with The Magnuson Center. He was pleasantly surprised when he won the competition with his pitch for Who’s Down, a platform to connect people around social events.

“We present a much more efficient system for event advertising,” said Bhatt. Who’s Down launched for the Dartmouth community on September 7, and quickly became popular among the Class of 2024, with over a fourth of the freshman class downloading it just a month after launch.  Students loved how Who’s Down aggregated events from Blitz and other informal sources, allowing community members to sift through and filter events more effectively, all while catering to individual interests and schedules. Bhatt says this early feedback was instrumental in planning the first major update set for January 1st, 2021, which will feature calendar integrations, new event categories, and semi-private events.

Bhatt is no longer in Hanover — he graduated and is attending Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, North Carolina. Still, he’s thrilled that Who’s Down is live, allowing members of the Dartmouth Community to connect at a time when support systems are more important than ever.

“I think of it almost as a senior gift. Having this app launch was the culmination of a labor of love,” Bhatt said. “When I see people using my app to find people and communities that matter to them, it’s an experience of love.”

Of course, Bhatt never planned to launch Who’s Down in the midst of a global pandemic where social distancing and virtual interaction has become the norm. “If I, as a ‘24 stuck in my dorm room, could post an event on Who’s Down and find someone in my building with a similar interest, I could connect with them through the app and play chess with them online. I can start to form friendships with my fellow classmates with similar interests, all without leaving my dorm and jeopardizing public health.”

Bhatt is particularly excited about the idea of connecting people with obscure hobbies, who otherwise might have trouble finding each other.

If you don’t have the power to organize an event, you might settle for the events available to you, rather than spending your time doing the thing you’re most passionate about, he said. With Who’s Down, people can find others who share their first-choice for free-time activities.

“We want to change how people think about their free time,” Bhatt said. “We have these quirky passions. What if we could get people to delve into those by doing the activities that were their first choice?”

Bhatt himself has a unique set of interests. After winning The Pitch, he added computer science to his biology major, with the expressed purpose of developing Who’s Down.

“I think doctor and developer is what I want to be in this life,” he said. “At its core, I see entrepreneurship as problem solving. Whether the problem is the physiological system of human body or an inefficiency in event advertising, I’ve been fortunate to give myself a toolkit to address the problems.”

He started working with other Dartmouth students, all of whom are still working on the app while holding down full-time jobs. Jennifer Qian (D22), Abhi Kapur (D’21), Anjali Chikkula (D’20), Sihao Huang (GR), Aarish Iyer (GR), and Bella Jacoby (D20) all helped Bhatt with launching Who’s Down.

Together with his team and the Dartmouth resources, Bhatt hopes to ensure that spontaneity, community, and fun aren’t casualties of COVID-19.

“Dartmouth has really been instrumental in helping me come up with this idea,” he said. “The Magnuson Center, DALI Lab and all this programing made me realize that entrepreneurship is an accessible thing: that some kid from North Carolina could have a good idea, implement that idea, and add value to people’s lives. And isn’t that what it’s all about?”