Horizon App Customizes Travel OptionsBy Jane Whitttington on January 5th, 2017 /
Oshan Weerasinghe had the idea when he was traveling on business. In a strange town with time to kill, Weerasinghe wished he had a guide to the city that would lead him to restaurants, music venues or other attractions that he would enjoy. He began to consider how to create such a guide, one that would be transportable, customized to his likes and dislikes, and easy to use. As he thought about it, he realized that such a tool would be helpful not only for business travelers but also for those who were traveling for pleasure. That’s when Horizon, an app that directs its user to places they would enjoy, was born. Now Weerasinghe, along with business partner Ben Buscarino, is developing and perfecting Horizon and hopes to launch beta testing by early next spring.
Thanks to the top prize at the Hatch Finale, a business pitch competition sponsored by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and Michigan State University’s Spartan Innovation, they now have $10,000 to invest in their business and take it to the next level.
Weerasinghe is an MSU grad with a degree in Supply Chain Management and Information Technology, and Buscarino is a sophomore at MSU with a Computer Science major and a minor in Entrepreneurship.
Weerasinghe is employed by a large accounting firm and often travels for business. For some time, he has thought about becoming an entrepreneur and worked on several such products during his time at the University. The idea for Horizon came when he was in a faraway city, scanning the Internet and Yelp reviews for ideas on how to spend his down time.
Weerasinghe says, “I envisioned an app that would generate customized choices for the user based on what they most enjoy. I can see this expanding to include not just travel suggestions but also ideas for what to watch next on Netflix, the best take-out options in the area, and similar questions. I came up with the idea, pitched it at a November pitch event and was encouraged by the response I received. I met Ben (Buscarino) at the event, and we decided to work together on the Horizon app.”
Buscarino explains, “The algorithm we use to customize the app is based on users’ Facebook profiles and their likes and dislikes as well as Yelp reviews for the area the user is asking about. This has proven to be remarkably accurate in predicting what activities, events and locations the app user would enjoy. Using the Horizon app is a much faster and easier way to decide what to do—better than searching the Internet and spending a lot of time going to websites like Yelp and similar ranking sites. By using keyword analysis and social media, the app is customized without the need for having users fill out a questionnaire or spend any time making the app ‘fit’.”
Weerasinghe says, “As consumers use the app, it adapts as it learns more about the user.”
In March, the app will be launched internally within the MSU community, students, alumni and staff. Based on this testing, the app will be perfected before it is launched into the marketplace.
Both Weerasinghe and Buscarino can’t say enough about the support they have received from Michigan State. They are working out of the co-work space The Hatch, just off campus on Grand River Ave. where they have access to administrative support, mentoring and other invaluable assistance. In addition, they will be adding six or seven interns to the team next semester.
For more information on the Horizon app, contact Weerasinghe or Buscarino at firstname.lastname@example.org