By Molly Atchison | Print Managing Editor
As a growing research institution, Baylor challenges its students to expand their thinking in order to create new, groundbreaking technology in their field of study. Houston sophomore Chris Nunn is doing just that with his new app, Town Trotter, which is beginning its beta testing phase next week.
Town Trotter is an app for smartphones and tablets that will allow businesses and organizations to offer promotions for users who “check in” through the app in a designated place. Checking in across town and completing app-created challenges will allow the user to earn Trotter points, which can be exchanged for coupons or rewards at local businesses.
Nunn’s team consists of three other talented individuals, including Dallas freshman Melinda White and Durango, Colo. sophomore Mason Stetler, who work with the marketing and advertising, and Town Trotter’s cofounder, Brenham junior Chris Holle. Holle works with the coding aspect of the program, while Nunn focuses on the business side of the app development.
“He [Nunn] has been working on this for the past year. It started as a lot of different kind of ideas for apps, but what its developed into is a way to connect users with all sorts of activities and restaurants, stuff like parks and other activities in Waco and beyond,” Stetler said.
The current target audience for the app is Baylor students, but eventually the group would like to expand to other universities and the general population.
“I think a phrase that you hear a lot at Baylor, and from incoming freshmen too, is that compared to cities like Austin and Dallas where there’s a lot bigger metropolitan area, many people say ‘what’s there to do in Waco?’” White said. “Waco’s so small, and there’s a lot of growth here, and I think that Town Trotter is trying to open the eyes of incoming freshmen and Baylor students and let them know that Waco’s great too, and this app will definitely help that.”
Nunn formed the idea to create Town Trotter after evaluating several similar apps, and finding that they were lacking an interactive aspect that he felt was necessary to keep consumers enticed.
“There’s a lot of apps that give you points or coupons, but what we found with them is that they don’t stay fresh,” Nunn said. “I can’t go challenge my friend on pocket points, and so this will hopefully fill that need, so that every time you tap on Town Trotter you’ll find something new to do and to be involved with.”
Unlike other point-based apps, Town Trotter does not simply revolve around setting a GPS location and letting points accrue. With Town Trotter, users complete challenges in order to earn points. Some are simple, such as getting coffee from three coffee shops in town over the course of two weeks, and others are more difficult — like finding all of the monuments in Cameron Park and taking photos of them. Time spans for point collection ranges from two weeks to three months, and there are a multitude of categories to choose from.
“We have a wide variety, we have classic restaurants like Health Camp and Fuego, and we also have some random ones like Waco Escape Rooms and Waco Pedal Tours,” Nunn said. “Yelp exists, so people can find fun restaurants, but we also wanted to include fun things for people to do.”
The categories for challenges include drinks, museums, outdoors, entertainment, road trips, local restaurants, shopping, nightlife, workout and volunteer opportunities.
“So basically you might get a challenge that says ‘go to three coffee shops in the next two weeks, and get double points on all of the places’ or ‘volunteer this week’ and you can get bonus points for doing that,” Nunn said. “We just started one called the weekend warrior with Refit where you can get up, go get coffee and then go to a 10 a.m. workout with them; it gives people ideas to do, and it gets them competitive through the leaderboard. It’s something that makes you want the trotter points and also gives you fun stuff to do and keeps you engaged.”
The process of creating an app, however, is much more involved than Nunn anticipated, and has taken about a year to come to fruition.
“It started out over the summer, I didn’t know how to code so I had to figure out where to start,” Nunn said. “I created an LLC in the state of Texas in July, and after that I sent out LinkedIn and Facebook posts saying ‘Hey, i’m looking for someone to code an app for me’ and Chris Holle facebook messaged me and we chatted for a few weeks, got the idea going, decided what we were going to do and we met in August.”
Since meeting up with Holle, the pair has been working nonstop, reaching out to development companies all over the world searching for one that they felt fit their needs the best, and also reaching out to local business owners to try and get them on board with the concept. Nunn said the beta test was offered for free for local businesses, so it was easier than normal to get business owners on board with the test. If all goes according to plan, the beta test is set to start at the latest on April ninth, and will include some Waco favorites in its list of options.