UBC alum and students create app to help students get groceries, connect with neighbours

A group of UBC alumni and current students have developed a new app to help students connect with each other over grocery shopping.

Hi Neighbor (Hinbor), founded in September 2020 by recent Sauder graduate Jack Jia, aims to reconnect neighbours with each other, while eliminating commission and delivery fees built into other delivery apps.

The app works by matching residents in a general area. If an individual is going grocery shopping soon, they can let their neighbourhood group know through the app, which gives their neighbours a chance to request any items. The helping neighbour will receive a 20 per cent discount for items bought at one of the 26 partnered vendors and the receiving neighbour gets free delivery.

Shopping lists and payments are processed in the app as well.

The app has been in testing since December 2020. Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer Di Hai was a part of the first round of testing in Marine Drive and Ponderosa Commons before joining the team.

“[I]t’s not difficult either because I was going grocery shopping anyways. I just need to pick up one extra bag,” she told The Ubyssey.

Curing the “loneliness epidemic” by reconnecting neighbours

While developing Hi Neighbor, Jia wanted to address the “loneliness epidemic” experienced by city-dwellers and reinvigorate the “sense of unity” from our childhoods, Hai said.

“Nowadays, many people [are] living in these high-rise buildings and apartments. Their physical distance is increasingly smaller, but their social distance is further. Most of them don’t even know who lives next door.”

“That’s how we differentiate from [our] competitors … Three clicks for the grocery pick-up and you make friends,” Jia added.

Daria Deng, an incoming fourth-year geological sciences student, described her Hi Neighbor community as a “friendly” one, though she is unsure whether this will continue as the app continues to develop and the group grows larger.

According to Deng, the choices right now are “pretty limited,” as there are only six people assisting with deliveries and only select groceries are available.

Regardless, Deng and Yu He Zeng, an incoming third-year economics student, are “happy” with the app, though Zeng feels it needs more testing.

The future of Hi Neighbor

According to Jia, “UBC is the first step.” Hi Neighbor hope to expand its operations to the “7 million students liv[ing] in dorms across Canada and the US.”

Jia is currently speaking with UBC’s Director of Food Services and hopes to collaborate with them in the future. This would allow Hi Neighbor to expand its network of on-campus partnerships more easily, enabling students to “buy anything from anywhere on campus and bring [it] to their neighbours to have a chat.”

The Hi Neighbor team has also received technical support from Telus and networking and educational resources from entrepreneurship@UBC.

Once the pandemic dies down, Jia foresees that the app will only grow in popularity.

With COVID-19, users were concerned about contracting the virus if they went outside. After the pandemic, “[it will be] easier to connect with people [and] meet people in-person,” Jia said.

In the future, Jia hopes to “gamify” the app “to incentivize neighbour[s] to help each other” so that especially helpful neighbours can receive greater discounts and badges based on the number of people they have assisted.

“[I]t’s all about ... [students helping] each other in a dorm building, and we’re providing a really new way [of doing this through our] partnership[s] with vendors at UBC.”

This article has been updated to say that Yu He Zeng is an incoming third-year economics student.