Q&A: Sam Gale

speaks to the creator of ‘uni genie’ about mental health, becoming an entrepreneur, and developing the app

Image: Uni Genie

What inspired you to create the Uni Genie App?

I realised the concept during a module at uni, and as it was taking around 20 minutes on a group chat each week to find a time to meet other students for group work, it became incredibly frustrating when I was trying to concentrate on writing a 3rd year essay. Ostensibly a small problem, being in a suicidal state at the time had that frustration ignite panic attacks on several occasions. I couldn’t believe in this modern era that such a simple thing hadn’t been technologically solved. When my Grandfather died on Boxing Day that Christmas, life became unbearable. Unknowing what to do with myself having dropped out of uni and contemplating suicide, the only idea I had was to try and immerse myself into something new to take my mind off things. So, I decided to try and give students one less problem and Uni Genie was born.

Why do you think your app appeals to students?

Every student knows how difficult it is finding times to meet other students outside of lectures for group work each week. Uni Genie solves this problem. I’ve specifically made as simple to use as possible to save users’ time, and it’s 100% free. It’s not made by some company whose chief aim is to get money out of you, it’s made by a student who understands the pressures of uni, and who genuinely wants to make students’ lives easier. If you want to wake up in the morning, you use an alarm. If you want to know when you and a group of students are all free to meet, you use Uni Genie. It’s as simple as that. If it doesn’t harm your wallet and it gives you one less stress to deal with at university, how can it not be appealing to a student?

Going from student life to a career as an entrepreneur, what challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Learning how to be a boss and find the right balance with people you employ was a new skill to learn for sure. When my developer had missed a deadline and needed telling for example, it was imperative to choose the right words when I was going to be sat next to him for 5 hours the following day. I always put the project’s end goal before my personal feelings, staying professional and respectful at all times. Having said that, the hardest challenge by far is being unable to switch off out of work mode and get away from the pressure. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 commitment that truly becomes your life. Besides remembering why you started, exercise, healthy eating and travel are the best remedies in my eyes.

Having dropped out of uni due to mental health issues, what advice would you give to other students also suffering?

Know that through hardship you definitely grow stronger as a person, and although you might feel utterly twisted right now – you can get through it! I’d recommend researching successful people/celebrities to see the struggles they had to go through to make them who they are today e.g. J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey and Eminem. Like Emily Dickinson said, ‘A wounded deer leaps highest.’ Without sounding evangelical, my best piece of advice would be to speak to the creator. A former agnostic, I thought I might as well give it a go as nothing else was helping. I’m not religious, but finding God was definitely the turning point in my life.

How do you see the app developing over the coming year?

From what I’ve seen at universities and for the problem Uni Genie solves, I know Uni Genie will be in every uni in the country in one guise or another, within a year. To me that isn’t being optimistic, it’s being pragmatic.

Do you think that social media is currently more of a help or hindrance to students’ social lives?

Umm that’s a tough one, from a mental health perspective it certainly doesn’t help being able to freely compare yourself against your peers 24/7 if you have insecurities. That said, it can’t be denied that it’s a great way to keep in touch with people. I’m on the fence with that one.

How do you think apps such as Uni Genie are changing the way we socialise and connect with others?

I can’t comment on other apps as each has their own niche, but speaking in terms of Uni Genie: the way I see it, it simply saves students time during their busy uni week, giving them more time to live and enjoy the unique experience that university undoubtedly is.

Find out more about Uni Genie: https://unigenie.co.uk/story

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