New 14-friend social media app has Elk River connection

by Sophia Khori
Contributing Writer
A set of Minnesota-raised cousins, Joe Sweeney and Justin Buhl, have created a new kind of social media application.
Awhile before moving to the Silicon Valley, Joe Sweeney, 35, attended Lincoln Elementary School in Elk River. Sweeney studied biochemistry and math locally at Hamline University, then later received his master’s degree in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.
Justin Buhl, 23, joined his cousin in California in 2016 after ditching his chemical engineering and computer science studies at the University of Minnesota. While Buhl attended White Bear Lake High School, he was a National Merit Scholar and one of the top math students in the state.
After research and personal experience with social media, they decided to craft an app that keeps users connected with close friends, 14 to be exact, and on top of their to-do lists.
The goal for the app, Azha, is to take users away from hours of mindless scrolling through social feeds full of articles and videos that aren’t fully read or viewed. Instead, the aim is to encourage quality over quantity when it comes to friends and to boost productivity through the to-do list and calendar features.
Essentially, with Azha, users are able to share their list of tasks and calendar of deadlines with a condensed set of friends. Users can attach deadlines and reminders to tasks and use the app to send tasks, which is useful for friends during group assignments in school or for families to assign household chores.
If you aren’t into sharing every duty or obligation on your agenda, that is also an option. In fact, 20 percent of Azha’s current users utilize the app independently. Other key features include the ability to snap progress photos, track productivity and identify trends and patterns through charts.
The hope was not only to create a constructive, goal-oriented application in an age of ever-increasing social media use, but also to motivate other young app developers.
“We hope to inspire other Minnesota students to pursue technology. There’s no reason a ‘Snow Valley’ equivalent to Silicon Valley can’t be created. All it would take to start is a few sharp kids with good ideas and a lot of ambition,” Sweeney said.
Azha is available to download for free in the iPhone App Store, and more information about the to-do list tool can be found at