What began in 2015 as a tutoring service and later evolved into a Craigslist for student services has rebranded yet again as an event-based photo-sharing platform. A University of Richmond alumnus who co-founded the program is looking to ignite people’s social life with the newly updated app, Flare.  

Before, we were this photo-sharing platform kind of floating in the middle of nowhere between Instagram and Snapchat, and there wasn’t a whole purpose as far as users were concerned,” said Keenan Shepard, ‘19, co-founder of the app. “They were wondering, 'Why should I upload photos to Flare?' And that was a huge question we struggled with.”

The new app bundles everything people need to plan and enjoy events, and the aim is to make it “your one-stop-shop for your social life,” Shepard said.

Flare functions as a shared social calendar where users can create events complete with descriptions. Then, the host can send invitations to particular people or mass-add entire organizations at the press of a button.

Both during and after the event, invitees can upload photos and videos exclusively for the eyes of those in the event group. Participants can interact with the images by liking and commenting.

Senior Emily Schott said her favorite feature of the app was the leaderboards. The app ranks photos and videos based on the likes and comments they receive so members can see which from an event were most popular. 

“I feel like this makes it a little bit more fun,” Schott said. “It just adds an extra thing, so it's a social app, not just a photo-dumping app.” 

Schott, who serves as Pi Beta Phi’s vice president of communications, has used the app within her chapter. Pi Phi used Flare during its most recent philanthropy event, Lip Sync, sorority family reveal and initiation.

Schott said she particularly loved Flare for its user-friendly interface and its focus on creating a community.

Senior Payton Kiel said she had found Flare beneficial for her role as public relations chair for Kappa Kappa Gamma. 

“It organizes events, photos and videos into clear-cut categories on a calendar, which makes it much easier for me to see content from everyone in my chapter,” Kiel said. “It would be amazing to have your whole chapter’s photos in one place instead of having to go through 100 girls’ Instagrams or having to continuously ask them to send you photos to post on your chapter’s page.” 

Shepard said his background as a fraternity risk chair and president of his member class allowed him to curate the app closely to the college experience. 

“I have been, for so long, so closely involved in hosting these events, so I know all of the problems that exist,” Shepard said. “I was handling all the misinformation … and all of the issues that go into communicating all of those changes with your audience at Richmond.”

Typically, recruitment chairs of fraternities collect students’ emails to invite them to events, Shepard said. Shepard hoped Flare could streamline this process by allowing recruitment chairs to create events and share links to invite other students easily. 

“When the rush chair wants to invite people to Monday night football, he can just go into his rush list, tap 10 names and send out an invitation to the kids he wants to hang out with that night,” Shepard said.

Now, people can easily share events that they were otherwise posting about in GroupMes or on Facebook, where the messages are scattered and the photos end up in different places, Shepard said. 

“So this is one reference point where the host uploads information and blasts it out to everyone,” Shepard said. 

He said he believed Flare could help people enjoy events more. 

“So that’s what the calendar is going to do for users … allow them to anticipate these events and enjoy them more on the front end, but then also extend the life of them so you can go back to your calendar and relive these experiences,” Shepard said. “It’s almost like trying to extend the half-life of each of these events.”

Kiel said that, compared with Google Drive or other platforms, Flare stood out as a more modern and updated version of a social calendar app. She thought the app was an asset for students but said it had shortcomings. 

“I think the hardest part is getting people to start using the app as their normal sharing platform,” Kiel said. “People definitely don’t like to switch up their usual ways of doing things, but I think that switching to Flare would be a great change and would benefit a lot of people.”

Shepard said getting people to transition to Flare was possible and that the app went beyond UR and its distinctive social life. 

“I think Richmond is a little unique with the big fraternity, Greek-life events,” Shepard said. “But, if you think about a wedding, a lot of these things ring true: communicating with your whole audience a time change, a logistic change, and the photos and videos ending up in one place for everyone to interact with.”

Co-founder and Brown University student Jack Chen, who declined to comment, originally founded the app in 2015 to help students find tutors, but Shepard said it had come a long way. It now has 2,400 downloads, and Shepard hopes to market the app to other colleges so Flare can continue to grow.

Contact lifestyle writer Avery Wasson at avery.wasson@richmond.edu.