As a recent college graduate, I love learning about and meeting entrepreneurs who are also recent grads. It has become increasingly difficult to land a job after college, so many people have turned to starting their own businesses and launching ideas as soon as they get their diploma. Remember that idea you had at 3am about that great invention that would change the world? Young people today are going for it and trying to make something happen, risks and all!
I recently met some young entrepreneurs who started a website called CollegeOnly.com. I was walking in New Haven, CT, the home of Yale University, when I was approached by some members of the site’s marketing team. I was handed a door-hanging flyer that said, “You’ve been SEXILED!” with information about the website on the back – what a brilliant gimmick to catch the attention of college students! I was instantly drawn to these ambitious recent grads, and asked them to meet with me for an interview. As they walked away, I could still hear them approach strangers with, “Heard of CollegeOnly.com? Take this door-knocker!” – the sounds of a great marketing approach.
What is CollegeOnly.com? I interviewed Shahed Serajuddin – the site’s co-founder and COO – to find out. He calls the site a “College Community,” one that limits membership to those in institutions that have become a part of the website already; no teachers or other outsiders, just STUDENTS.
I proceeded to ask whether the site is like the way “Facebook” used to be, and he responded with, “Not exactly, Facebook no longer caters to the college community; it’s no longer an honest discourse with the campus. Plus, there are unique feature sets!”
Shahed’s favorite feature is the “Chat Rooms,” where you can enter your courses, residence halls and clubs and have an open discourse with your peers. You can browse people here too, and find that one person you wanted to know more about or talk to in length about a political subject or the upcoming final. Shahed was unable to unveil some more top-secret features that he was even more excited about.
The makers of CollegeOnly.com have high hopes for the next five years and are currently in the process of tweaking the site for “Critical Mass.” When it was first launched, there was a lot of buzz, but it had some bugs, and they are still tweaking the site. Some schools currently on board include Yale, Cornell, Penn and Princeton.
The Ivy connection isn’t a coincidence: co-founder Josh Weinstein (pictured at right) launched the site as a student at Princeton. He had an idea for a college-exclusive online community that would allow his peers to converse and socialize without having to worry about their teacher or the general public having access to their party lives or discussions. He began by creating online dating sites like GoodCrush and RandomDorm. He co-founded CollegeGovs, which was a listserv for student body presidents that allowed one to connect through online “dating” and matchmaking – and he began thinking bigger and better. CollegeGovs became a huge hit, so he decided to expand past romantic endeavors to general college life and social connectedness.
After graduating in 2009 with a degree in Asian Studies, Josh he decided to proceed with his ideas and expand on CollegeOnly.com. He now lives in New York City, constantly networking and programming to help iron out the kinks on his site.
Josh and Shahed hold events here at Yale University to discuss the site and to find out what the public wants. They held a “study break” after my interview, where they handed out sandwiches and doorknockers and other marketing accoutrements. Josh and Shahed, along with their friends, are living the dream many recent grads struggle with. They took their ideas and ran with them, and are creating a fantastic social media site that has been in demand since Facebook took away its college exclusivity.
Even after their business meeting, they won the hearts of the Yalies by throwing a “CollegeOnly.com party” at Toad’s Place – a local bar – where they gave out CollegeOnly sunglasses and took pictures of people having a great time. They went above and beyond the professional relationship and showed the students they were just like them, and wanted to have fun. Not only did they get into students’ minds – they partied with them, too.
I find it intriguing to see young adults with so much ambition as to build an idea from the ground up, self-market and create an entire business network to make their plan a reality. I believe that if we all go with our gut about our ideas and have enough ambition to make things happen, we can alleviate our unemployment problems. I’d take CollegeOnly.com’s story to heart, to know that yes, you CAN start your own company.
You can check out CollegeOnly.com HERE.