Teen entrepreneur launches app aimed at helping stem spread of COVID-19

Ryan Rodrigs
Colonel By student Ryan Rodrigs has created an app aimed at helping keep people safe during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo courtesy Ryan Rodigs

Like many teenagers, Ryan Rodrigs has been glued to his smartphone during the COVID-19 lockdown.

But in the case of the 15-year-old budding serial entrepreneur, a good chunk of that screen time has actually been devoted to research on his latest business venture ​– one that’s also helping a good cause.

Earlier this week, Rodrigs launched the YUNAL Covid-19 app – the latest product from Dhyan Technologies, a venture he founded two years ago. The new app, which is now available for free on Android devices and iPhones, is aimed at helping users stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic by prompting them to wash their hands regularly and maintain physical distancing.

“I really want to solve problems in my community wherever possible,” says Rodrigs. “I felt this was the right time to pivot slightly and focus on an application that could help people.”

Using GPS technology, the app can detect when users are away from home and issue reminders to don masks and gloves. It also includes a COVID-19 self-assessment tool as well as links to health-care resources and news feeds related to the pandemic. 

In the first two days, the app was downloaded 1,400 times. Rodrigs, who’s funding the venture with his father and has hired a developer to do the coding, is already working on improvements, such as Bluetooth and GPS integrations that will alert users when they come within two metres of another person.

Dhyan’s other product, an app that allows teachers, parents and employers to lock students’ or employees’ smartphones at the touch of a button, has been in development for a couple of years and is now being tested in several Asian countries, Rodrigs says. 

For now, the Grade 10 student in Colonel By Secondary School’s international baccalaureate program says he’s putting most of his energy into the COVID-19 project. He’s looking at monetizing the app by selling ad space but says any potential revenue from the product will go toward causes that aid the fight against the coronavirus.  

“It’s more about helping people and really taking care of people at this current moment,” he explains. “Money’s not our top priority.”

Rodrigs comes by his passion for entrepreneurship honestly. 

His father Jeri is the creator of the Rumidifier, a device that recycles warm air from furnaces as an alternative to traditional humidifiers. Two years ago, the teen became the youngest person ever to appear on CBC’s Dragons’ Den when he and his dad pitched an app designed to automatically shut down a smartphone screen when the owner of the device was driving.

Naturally, Rodrigs cites Jeri as one of his major inspirations, along with a couple of other business types you might have heard of.

“Guys like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, those are my idols,” he says. “I really wanted to be like them.”

Jeri sounds every bit the proud papa when asked about his son’s achievements. 

“He never rests,” he says. “He said to me yesterday, ‘When a pandemic like this happens, you can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. He said, ‘I want to be part of the solution.’”

A competitive basketball and soccer player when he’s not studying or plotting his next business move, Rodrigs says he’s not sure exactly what his future holds. But it will almost certainly involve an enterprise or two of his own making.

“No matter where I am, I’m always going to have some kind of a side project or some kind of (business) idea that I’m going to be pursuing,” he says. “I’m going to see where entrepreneurship takes me.”