Student Startup Spotlight – Oranj App

August 3, 2020

Oranj App logo
Oranj is an app that brings people together through common interests.

Making social media a more positive experience is the goal for Nolan Earnest and his team of West Valley High School friends. They created the Oranj App - a social media platform that links people by their hobbies and activities.

Earnest was a freshly minted high school graduate when he joined the Students2Startups this summer.

“Oranj, right now, is an app for people who feel that social media is not the right place to meet new people, make new friends,”  Earnest said. 
The Oranj team had developed their app to a point where they needed someone to work on it full time. Through meeting the Center ICE startups and innovation manager, Nigel Sharp, the team found an internship that offered the opportunity to work on their app,  meet people, and interact with other interns and other startups in Alaska.He adds that the social media platform Facebook is a way to keep in touch with your family and co-workers and actual friends that you might see on weekends. “We’re trying to make it to where people who don’t have the opportunities in the workplace or school can meet new people the right way,”  Earnest said.

“I was like wow, we are going to get to know a lot more people and we’re going to be able to take advantage of that for the whole summer,”  Earnest said.

Students2Startups  was a valuable program for Earnest when he was making the website for the Oranj app because the other interns provide valuable and honest feedback.  He is also learning about the business side of things from Sharp, Peter Webley and guest speakers.

“The Oranj App was an experiment for the continually evolving Students2Startups program, where this year for the first time students have been permitted, even encouraged, to work on startup companies they have intrinsic ownership of. Nolan Earnest recognizing the potential opportunity for this has taken full advantage,”  Nigel Sharp said.

And, the art of pitching. “That was honestly a huge moment for me,”  Earnest said. “I’d love to learn more about pitching because it felt so natural, but there are a lot of simple things you can do and they can turn into major mistakes.”

Earnest also took many of the S2S program ideas back to his team, like the Business Model Canvas. Over Zoom, Earnest led the Oranj team through the canvas and they were able to decide on the best path forward for the startup rather than running in too many directions.

Oranj founders are Earnest (designer), Thomas Beuler (developer), Kate Baring (designer), and Koen Campbell (marketing). They decided together that Earnest should do the internship as a way to move the project forward.

Oranj is not a dating app. People who sign up are put into groups by interests making it more comfortable to initiate conversations. The team is trying to make the experience more than just about talking. “We’re trying to make it more about developing relationships than just having that little experience. We want it to be where people can connect and say, ‘I am really glad I met this person’” who? said.

The Oranj app is live, though it is not to the point where the team wants it to be. Time is a factor. The team  members have all recently graduated from high school, and Bueller is attending Columbia University in the fall. Campbell is working a fulltime job, Barring is headed to college in Washington and Earnest is enrolled at UAF to major in filmmaking.

The Oranj team will continue  developing their app; They plan to keep it free of charge with minimal advertising. Earnest feels that online interactions will be the way we meet people in the future,  through an app like Oranj which focuses on human interactions rather than comparing yourself to others.

“We are building an environment for users to feel more fulfilled, less depressed,” he said.

Students2Startups is an Alaska Center ICE program supported through funding from the Office of Naval Research.  For more information on the program, please contact Nigel Sharp at