This is a First Look: It’s the first time any news outlet or blog has covered this startup. You can read more First Looks here. (We do this a lot.) 

The Internet has made it so easy for people to spread negativity. With the emergence of social media and apps, especially the ones that let users to post anonymously, it’s paved the way for folks to hide behind their devices and make nasty comments public. And now, two college students are staging a counterattack.

Harnessing the power of positivity, Holy Cross’ Anthony Saltarelli and Columbia’s John Benenati have developed an app – Chin Up! – that enables users throughout different college campuses and communities to post anonymous compliments about other people to brighten their days. 

 “We wanted there to be an app that’s at each college that’s just lifting up everyone’s spirits.”

The concept for Chin Up! came about a year ago, when the co-founders realized they could use their computer science skills to do some good in social media.

“We’ve been friends since high school and one day we were texting,” Saltarelli said of he and Benanti. “We’re both computer science majors so we were talking about apps and figured, ‘We know a lot about this, so why don’t we come up with one of our own?’”

He continued, “That was around the time when Yik Yak became popular at college campuses and it was at Holy Cross – it’s not at Holy Cross anymore because they banned it from their servers – and I noticed that there was so much negativity coming out of Yik Yak. I’d go on and every post would be someone complaining or saying something bad about someone else. I thought that something this negative shouldn’t be the popular app that students are using. We decided we’d make a social media app that is purely positive.”

Chin Up! Co-Founders: John Benenati (left) and Anthony Saltarelli (right).

At that time, the duo wasn’t sure what that meant quite yet. However, they had some more inspiration. In the past, students used to create Facebook groups specific to their colleges and users could submit compliments about other people on campus to a moderator, who would then post them to the page so they were anonymous. They took that idea and ran with it.

Chin Up! doesn’t limit compliments throughout a community to individuals. For example, Holy Cross’ men’s basketball team had an incredible win against Bucknell recently, so users took to their phones to compliment the guys on their victory.

“It truly is a community builder where everyone is looking out for each other,” Saltarelli told me. “We wanted there to be an app that’s at each college that’s just lifting up everyone’s spirits.”

Saltarelli and Benanti are looking to make a positive impact beyond the confines of college communities. Chin Up! partnered with Make A Wish Foundation to send students’ good vibes to people who really deserve it.

Saltarelli explained:

I was searching ‘Make a Wish Foundation’ videos on Youtube and I just saw how much joy all of these wishes bring to the children and how truly amazing the Make a Wish Foundation is. And that’s when I made it my goal to partner with them in some capacity. I reached out to several people in the Connecticut branch, saying, “I want to feature the Wish children in the app and allow students from around the country to send in posts and messages encouraging these children to keep their chins up” and they were really into it from the start.

That desire has become a reality. According to Saltarelli, “We feature the children on the app, students…they all send in posts to the backend and then we get them and make them into a hardcover book for the children. They receive it the night before their wish is granted. We want to show them in a physical way – in a book that they can hold – that…they have the support of so many people and students around the country.”

Although Chin Up! has been available on iOS, the startup will be releasing its Android version within the next week. Following that, Saltarelli said they will be thinking about how they can incorporate native advertising – all of which would still incite feel-good emotions like discounts and positive slogans – into the app.

Images via Chin Up!