Ozzie Toole is on a one-man mission to get people off their mobile phones and back enjoying each other’s company.
Ironically though, the 25-year-old Bond University Diploma of Business student is using a phone app to do it.
He’s developed an application called Uvents which brings upcoming university social happenings into a single calendar, rather than strewn across multiple platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp and others.
The initiative saw him take out this semester’s Bond University Transformer Launchpad where four entrepreneurial students pitched a start-up to a panel of industry experts.
And while necessity is the mother of invention, plenty of toil with a side of frustration is pushing Uvents along its commercialisation path.
“I’ve always had a deep dislike for the big meta platforms,” Ozzie says.
“I feel like they are ruining young peoples’ lives by making them so addicted to their phones.
“I get that it’s big business and they want everyone on their platforms as long as possible because they are ad-tech, but since I was about 14, I’ve hated that everyone is so addicted to these monolithic all-consuming platforms.
“It might seem counter intuitive to do what I’m doing via an app, but I want to get people back out into real life and doing things with their friends, and if I need to connect with them through their phones, I think the end justifies the means,” he said.
There are over 50,000 student events held across 41 Australian university campuses annually and Ozzie believes universities are also bound by a duty of care to protect their students as they socialise.
“Having everything to do with whatever event on one app, one social calendar and one source of registration goes a long way to achieving that.
“I’ve incorporated student feedback into the design and content and I’m in discussions with Bond IT staff to ensure compliance with the university’s cyber security protocols and requirements.
“The plan is to stage the first university launch at Bond in January 2024 with the release of the first community event application a year later with up to eight universities on board soon after and an eye to interstate and overseas expansion,” he said.
The second irony of this story is Ozzie hasn’t been partying much since his idea took form.
“The past couple of years have been time-consuming, mentally draining, and financially stressful and to make ends meet I’ve been taking part-time handyman jobs on Airtasker repairing and painting walls, assembling flat pack furniture, that sort of thing,” the one-time carpenter said.
Ozzie has outsourced the software development but remains the founder and sole director and is currently looking for investors to help finance the next iteration of the product.
“I see it going pretty big because it’s a problem at most universities around Australia and probably around the world – the disconnect of the platforms and not being able to organise everything in the one space,” he said.
Irony number three is that Ozzie’s path to Bond and the world of technology development started agriculturally.
He grew up on the family sheep and hay farm in Forbes, NSW before coming to the Gold Coast to play rugby league for the Tweed Coast Raiders, the Tweed Heads Seagulls and the Burleigh Bears.
“Mum and dad helped with some initial seed funding which was great, but nowadays when I tell people back home that I’m starting an app and working in the tech space, they’re shocked.
“Everyone says they can’t keep up with me, but the whole getting people off their phones and doing more stuff with their friends has been a lifelong passion of mine and I’m doing what it takes to make that happen.
“I’m really where I want to be right now,” he said.