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Students create site to foster connections during quarantine

A college student at home alone while his mom worked in a hospital made a new friend – a 77-year-old widow, also stuck at home.

A guitar player met another player and songwriter, and they spent time singing and composing together through Zoom.

Jordyn Goldzweig ’21, Alisa Lai ’22 and Sam Brickman ’21 at an eLab event in New York City in September 2019.

These four people are a few of the more than 600 who have signed up to connect with others on Quarantine Buddy, a website founded by a trio of Cornell students.

“We wanted to channel the stress and uncertainty of this time into something that could benefit people,” said Jordyn Goldzweig ’21, who founded the company with Sam Brickman ’21 and Alisa Lai ’22.

Goldzweig and Brickman are students in the College of Arts and Sciences; Lai is in the College of Engineering.

Quarantine Buddy is a retooling of the students’ other business, Zing, which helps professors connect students within their classes for studying help and collaborative projects. Zing is a member of Cornell’s eLab business accelerator.

“We saw all of these people posting about how lonely they were and how they wanted to connect,” Brickman said. “So we started talking to people, from college students up to people in their late 70s, who said they wish they had an outlet for human interaction.”

When someone logs on to Quarantine Buddy, they answer a few questions about what they’ve been doing during this period of social distancing and what kind of connections they would like to make. While the Zing platform tries to match students based on similar interests and class needs, the new site uses an altered algorithm that identifies diversity and differences, so people can connect with others from a different part of the world, from a different culture or with new interests and insights.

Classes resumed online April 6, but the trio of students said they’re continuing to work on Quarantine Buddy and Zing. They think Quarantine Buddy will have a life even after the pandemic subsides – whenever that might be.

“What’s going on right now is dramatizing a problem that’s been growing for the last few years: People are more isolated than ever before and they don’t feel comfortable going up to people and talking with them,” Brickman said. “This is still going to be a huge problem. People will still want to find outlets for social connections.”

Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship at Cornell.

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Abby Butler