Students, you are about to get schooled—in the reality of mastering your entire college experience, academics included. From the pitfalls of navigating a sprawling campus to the pressing need to find food beyond the culinary creations of an institutional kitchen, from getting to know (or avoiding) the denizens of your dorm or off-campus living quarters, to making sense of who to ask for missed notes amid the masses in the lecture halls, CampusLIVE has the answers. Call it College 101 … 2.0.
CampusLIVE.com is an online portal that offers students in participating schools a way to balance academics and social networking by aggregating it all onto one campus-specific home page. And then balance that idea against the service becoming boring or just another Facebook clone. Rather, it works to aggregate information, in part, from the Facebook profile of students enrolled at the school between 2009-15. Think: university email, events, athletics, news, weather, local restaurants, and entertainment as well as a live feed that updates as members add information to their profiles.
“What it was a campus-specific homepage like i-Google where academic links, email, and Facebook were pulled together,” co-creator and the often overcaffeinated-sounding Boris Revsin tells Fast Company, adding without a breath, “It was a great idea but you won’t get the virality you need with a
static page. So we had to see what we could do to create the homepage
as more of a social resource.”
The Brainchild of Brainy Students
Launched in 2008 by Revsin and Jared Stenquist while they were students at UMass Amherst, CampusLIVE was conceived as a simple utility for students to connect to on- and off-campus resources. With some tweaking of the back end architecture and allowing the students to log on via Facebook (and have all their profile information pulled into CampusLIVE), Revsin says the site turned a major corner in functionality.
“It’s not just a message board,” Revsin says. A ranking system, for one, sets it apart from a campus activities page—and from Facebook. Sure, your Facebook friend pool is made up of people you hand-selected and CampusLIVE’s stream includes everyone signed up from the student body. But, Revsin notes, if a person who’s your Facebook friend posts something, it immediately gets moved to a prominent position on your live feed. Ditto for someone in your dorm, or signed up for one of your classes. “The pool is bigger but ranking makes it more relevant,” Revsin emphasizes.
It’s also really easy to keep it separate from Facebook, according to Emma Greene, a sophomore at Amherst who says never the twain shall meet in her world. A self-professed outgoing co-ed, Greene says she’s been using CampusLIVE since she was a freshman, back when it was a more static experience. Still she liked having everything in one place without the fuss of bookmarks.
Now, CampusLIVE’s latest version – just launched last week–has already invaluable resource to her. “You get on and add all your classes,” she explains, “I have five classes this semester and only know one person.” With the class finder, Greene can see everyone who is in any of her classes. “If I missed anything, or need help with a lecture, I can just send an email.”
But Revsin really wants to talk more about CampusLIVE’s proprietary feature – mapping. “We are the only site that I know of that has a map function like Google maps.” By this he means his team has spent hundreds of hours perfecting maps of its member campuses and each one not only shows a street layout and the school buildings, it also catalogs frat and sorority houses, local businesses, and landmarks.
With the new interactive feature, clicking on a dorm opens a balloon showing all the profile photos of users who are residents. A discussion link takes you to a running commentary on what everyone is doing (think: studying or partying). Revsin notes drily that if you don’t want your Facebook friends to know you are partying (hi mom!) better do as Greene did and disconnect your updates from FB.
On the other hand, a co-ed who asked not to be indentified notes the utility’s more practical side. “So you’re totally not a stalker, but who wants to waste a great outfit when the hot guy you’re creeping on isn’t even on campus? Checking CampusLIVE’s feed means you never waste time, energy, and laundry quarters again. I mean, if he’s gone home for the weekend, why NOT wear the faded band camp t-shirt and granny panties?”
Regarding stalkers, Revsin says no worries. The dorm addresses are hidden and CampusLIVE never lists anyone’s room number. “We do take it seriously and privacy settings are built-in.”
Greene says she’s been surprised at the level of discussion that’s already been generated. Revsin agrees the response has been encouraging. Before the new version launched, CampusLIVEhad pages for 225 schools and plans to add 50 more in the next six months. The team rolled out the live stream version last week to only 50 schools and is working on getting the rest online soon. For perspective, the new Amherst site started with 700 members last week and Revsin says 200-300 are joining daily all with no marketing – just from word of mouth.
All this activity and labor-intensive back-end work demands a lot of hands — and a lot of money. Revsin admits that CampusLIVE has made good use of interns (“They aren’t just making copies,” he underscores) in addition to a full-time staff of fourteen, including the founders. CampusLIVE snagged an initial round of VC funding to the tune of over $1 million early on, and are casting the net for another infusion.
But Revsin’s already speedy delivery gets even more energized when he talks about the potential for ad revenues. In a short time, CampusLIVE’s become a hot prospect for local and regional businesses, he says. “We know what students are buying online: food delivery,” and in last year and a half the company’s made a significant amount of revenue just by posting menus, he adds.
Taking it a step further, CampusLIVE is issuing challenges to students that require check-ins, tweeting or completed advergames. The student gets a discount coupon and the brand builds a presence among the students along with boosting sales. The model is already drawing sponsors such as Peter Pan Bus Lines, Foxwoods Resorts, and Rent the Runway who are paying per student. Revsin says, “Anyone who completes the challenge engages with the brand in a modified way. It’s so much better than a click through.”
Even with such a potential revenue stream, Revsin knows CampusLIVE has challenges ahead. “We are not going to change student’s behavior by just linking with Facebook. We need to play at getting more interaction and engagement.” After all, isn’t that was college is all about?