By Sarah Binder for We Create Here
Walking on the beach in Mexico, collecting garbage, Blake Rupe never thought she’d be an Internet entrepreneur. But almost exactly one year later, that’s what happened.
Re-APP is set to launch in the Apple App store June 1, and the company will host a launch party in Iowa City June 3.
Rupe recently graduated from the University of Iowa with a master’s in international studies, with an emphasis on marine conservation. While in Mexico, she studied what kind and how much garbage would wash up on the beach.
“What I was finding, 93 percent of the time, was this garbage was recyclable,” she said.
She started thinking about how to encourage more people to recycle, researching apps in the evenings. She found games for children and educational resources, but few recycling apps geared at adults.
Re-APP was designed to help people track and share their recycling habits. Within the app, users can document what they recycle into a virtual bin, share their progress on social media, and see what other friends who have the app have recycled.
“The social pressure behind it, I think, is half the reason people recycle today,” Rupe said.
In a four-week beta test, 18 users documented nearly 2,000 recycled items. Rupe and twin sister Blaire Rupe are co-founders of Re-APP, and from December to May were residents in JPEC’s Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory (BELL), which provides office space, resources and mentorship to companies started by UI students. BELL helped connect the team to app developer a fellow student-run company Bellwether Creation Company, which created the first version of the app.
Rupe referred to the iOS launch as “the moment of truth,” and said possible Android or web versions will be determined based on adoption of the initial app. Re-APP has been self-funded so far, and Rupe hopes to raise funding to expand.
The app will be free, and possible sources of revenue might include partnerships with other eco-minded organizations, offering enterprise-level solutions to business clients, or working with municipal governments and recycling centers.
Rupe said she was amazed at the resources she was able to find through the University.
“I never thought I would ever be an entrepreneur,” she said. “This idea, over six months, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I thought, ‘this thing needs to exist, I guess I have to make it.’”
Find information about the Re-APP launch event on Facebook.