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Dec. 9, 2020

Alumnus, student establish tech start-up after connecting at Northwest

By Edidiong Idong-Bassey, communication assistant


Despite the disruption of a global pandemic, Valentine Osakwe and student Zerryn Gines are building on the connection they established at Northwest Missouri State University to advance the start-up they founded as students.

Gines and Osakwe launched Peep Connect– or, more simply, Peep – as a community app that bridges the communication gap between small business owners and their customers. Gines, a senior financial management major from Raymore, Missouri, describes Peep as “Tinder for small businesses.”  

“One of the coolest things is people want to support small and local businesses so it’s a great time for us,” Gines said. “A lot of people have really caught on and bought into our vision, from friends to family, the press and even people working right here in Maryville.”

They launched Peep, which recently was featured in Forbes magazine, last January as a social platform for people to find events close to them. But as businesses shut down and unemployment increased last spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Osakwe said it was evident they needed to pivot and focus on helping small businesses.

“First and foremost, I have always wanted to build something and make an impact,” said Osakwe, a native of Lagos, Nigeria, who graduated from Northwest last summer with his bachelor’s degree in computer science. “Also, I believe in the mission of what we are building. We are giving a visibility to small businesses.”

The pair met while serving on Northwest’s Student Senate, and their friendship blossomed into a brotherhood as they realized they shared similar world views and perspectives. When Osakwe was looking for a co-founder, Gines was the first person he contacted.

“He’s the hardest worker in the room because he keeps me on my toes, and I keep him on his toes,” Osakwe said. “His strengths are my weaknesses, and his weaknesses are my strengths. Right now, I think we are no longer friends but brothers in the sense that we are co-founders, but we have a friendship that will supersede the company.”

Both say they are grateful Northwest provided a networking platform that has helped them build the company, strengthen their friendship and gain access to Northwest alumni connections. 

“My entrepreneurial journey started here,” Gines said. “Northwest forced me to be resourceful and provided an opportunity to network with people. “Professors always offered a helping hand; they want to see me succeed and that’s one of the biggest things Northwest has done for me.”


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704