Hello HN! I'm Wen Bo from alto.lol (https://alto.lol). I'm building a safe virtual space for students who attend the same university to meet and connect via video chat. It's like Zoom breakout rooms but any user is free to create/join/leave rooms and invite others to a room.

I moved to San Francisco, away from my family and friends, a few months before the start of Covid. I was still working for my job back in NYC and was the only one on my team who was fully remote. The isolation from my co-workers was challenging but video chatting with them on a regular basis helped with the transition.

After I was laid off, I began experimenting with real-time communication apps to alleviate the isolation that people felt due to working remotely and sheltering in place. I also searched for volunteer opportunities on helpwithcovid.com and worked with a project owner on ideating and planning a video chat app he wanted to build.

Around early August, I learned that a number of universities were going to be either fully remote or limit capacity on campus for the fall semester. I envisioned a video chat app where students were free to hang out and meet new classmates since it'd be difficult, if not impossible, to do so in person.

Alto (short for Alone Together) enables you to sign up with your university email, enter the lobby, and:

1) join a room where other classmates are already chatting

2) invite a classmate that is in the lobby to chat

3) create a room and send the link to your school friends to start chatting

I've worked with Python/JS for the past three years, but after being laid off, I wanted to try something new. I heard great things about Elixir back in my product management days, so I spent the last month learning a new stack (Elixir/Phoenix/LiveView/Tailwind) and building the MVP. Video chat is built using WebRTC.

I'm happy to share this project with the HN community! Thanks for reading about it and please let me know what you think in the comments below!

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