Everyone needs a little nudge now and then, especially on Valentine’s Day. Vasiliki “Vasi” Argeroplos, a tech savvy, teenaged app developer, knows that when it comes to nudging her generation, digital is the way to go.
The 18-year-old senior at Garrison Forest School—a K-12 all-girls’ day and boarding school in Owings Mills, Maryland—recently launched Nudge, a hyper-local dating app for teens, available on the App Store and Google Play. The “nudge” Nudge provides is all about getting to an authentic, face-to-face connection and preventing “catfishing.” The all-too-common online practice of creating a fictional persona to lure another into an online relationship is, Vasi explains, a real concern for teens. “Nudge allows the user to start a conversation online within the same room or at the same event, to break the ice digitally,” she explains. “It counteracts the fear of rejection that many young people might feel with an online dating app.”
Now that her college plans are wrapped up—Vasi will be studying economics with a planned minor in corporate strategy at Vanderbilt University next fall—she is focused on marketing the app. She’s using social media to target events where groups of young people don’t know each other, such as college freshman orientations, Greek life socials and other college student life functions. “I want people to use it as a way to meet new people at an event and expand their social network,” adds the Woodbine resident.
She developed Nudge last summer while attending a summer incubator for startups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For four weeks at MIT, she and her team of other high school students created and developed Nudge. Once school started, Vasi, a seasoned pro at running a company, took over the September launch herself. After all, she’s been directing her own nonprofit since 7th grade when she and her older brother, Niko, co-founded Okay to Play (okaytoplay.org). Their nonprofit improves the lives of children in orphanages and foster homes through donations of toys, games, and other needs while keeping electronic waste out of landfills.
Initially, Okay to Play’s unique business model collected used cell phones and other electronics and sold them to a recycling company. In the past few years, Vasi has expanded this to include gift card sales, corporate donations and a fund-raising event. Last year, she organized the teen Black-out Party—so named because guests wore all-black—and raised nearly $10,000 to purchase washers and three dryers for the Kivotos tou kosmou orphanage in Greece. To date, Okay to Play has raised $60,000 and donated needed toys, sports equipment and other items—each recipient organization requests what it wants—to organizations in New York, Maryland, Ohio, Afghanistan and Greece and kept some 2,000 used electronics out of landfills. Locally, Okay to Play has given to the Woodbourne Center, The Children’s Guild and The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
Her social entrepreneurship activities were featured in a 2011 Junior Achievement of Central Maryland national video of three regional entrepreneurs. Vasi was a Distinguished Finalist for the 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in Maryland and won a 2016 President’s Volunteer Service Award.
One of the top students in her class, Vasi participated in Garrison Forest School’s prestigious Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), a partnership with Johns Hopkins University organized through GFS’s James Center. As a junior, she spent several afternoons a week at the Whiting School of Engineering Department of Biomedical Engineering’s BioMEMS and Single Molecule Dynamics Lab, where she worked on the research project, “Use of a biomedical microelectromechanical capillary technique with microfluidic device to concentrate DNA.” Currently, she is one of seven students selected for the GFS pilot elective, Small World Initiative” to crowdsource new antibiotics by creating antibiotic-producing bacteria. Garrison Forest’s pilot class is one of six such high school programs in the country—and the only one in Maryland—based on the Small World Initiative program founded by Yale.
At college, Vasi plans to continue to make connections, interweaving her passion for nonprofit work, STEM and app development/technology to improve the lives of others—a goal for which she will hardly need a nudge.
Click here for more information about Garrison Forest School.