CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to better reflect that Claim secured $2 million in its first round of funding.

Claim, a new social networking and rewards app catered to college students, surpassed 1,000 downloads at the University of Maryland since launching this semester, according to a Claim campus ambassador.

The app encourages students to try new restaurants and brands by offering them a choice between three weekly vouchers, according to Jared Sherman, a Claim campus ambassador. After choosing a voucher, students receive cash back through their linked Venmo account three to five days later for their purchases at partnered businesses, Sherman, a sophomore finance, information science and operations management and business analytics major, said.

Claim features businesses such as Bagels ‘n Grinds, Chipotle, Starbucks and Vigilante Coffee. The app serves as a virtual “free sample,” according to CEO and co-founder Sam Obletz.

Obletz and his college roommate, Tap Stephenson, founded Claim while in graduate school at Harvard University. The pair was tired of receiving advertisements when opening social media platforms and wanted to create a better way for brands to interact with people, Obletz said.

After securing $2 million in its first round of funding, Claim launched at Harvard last year. Now, more than half of the student body with iPhones have downloaded the app, Obletz said.

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Since then, Claim has spread to more than 50 universities nationwide, according to its website.

Partner companies pay a fee to be eligible for vouchers on the app, according to Obletz. Because of the app’s target audience, students can discover new places around their campus and companies can expand their customer base, Obletz said.

“We see it as a win-win-win,” Obletz said. “It’s a win for our brand partner because they’re getting real new customers. It’s a win for our students on Claim because they’re getting to eat out for free, and it’s a win for Claim because we’re just kind of the way that we distribute that.”

Sophomore kinesiology major Lulu Wallace was hesitant when she first heard about Claim, adding that having to put her card details into an app she had never heard of made her nervous.

Once she used it for the first time and saw a Venmo payment from Claim made to her account, she quickly began to love it, Wallace said.

Claim uses Plaid, a data transfer network, to securely connect to users’ bank accounts. Plaid — also used by Venmo — is the standard service for connecting consumer apps to banks, Obletz said.

“All we are doing is using that Plaid-based link to figure out places you are eligible based on your transactions and to figure out when we are able to Venmo you for an eligible transaction you made,” Obletz said. “We’re not in the business, literally or ethically, of exploiting user data.”

Since its popularity grew in College Park, Claim has formed paid partnerships with Greek life organizations such as Alpha Phi and Phi Chi Theta, Sherman said.

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Roots Natural Kitchen — a business partner of the app — saw a customer increase in its College Park location since joining, according to general manager Richard Cunningham.

“It’s been beneficial for Roots just getting people in the door,” Cunningham said. “I feel like it brought in customers who wouldn’t normally come here.”

The app also allows users to sync contacts and compare vouchers with friends, Sherman added.

Jimmy Miller, a sophomore accounting and management major, said he often receives similar Claim vouchers as his friends and enjoys going out to eat together.

“It’s really fun. All my friends are excited to open it every week,” Miller said.

According to Obletz, having Claim act as a social network in addition to a rewards app was really important to its mission of supporting college students.

“If Claim can be the reason that you can go eat out with friends more often and give you a better college experience, then we are really happy,” Obletz said. “Hopefully our students are really happy, too.”

Staff writer Inaya Siddiqi contributed to this story.