January 30, 2012
A year old startup that participated in the minority-focused accelerator NewMe and graduated from 500 Startup just closed a $750k seed round. Silicon Valley-based OneSchool was started by 3 college kids; they develop mobile apps that let students browse campus maps, find course listings, discover nearby restaurants, check sports scores, access a directory of professor contact info, and more on their smartphone.
Adoption has been through the roof – more than 1 million students, 75% of them who use it daily, at 8 schools including Stanford, Columbia, Yale, UCLA and Penn State. Impressive for 3 young guys just starting out. (The app is available for the Windows Phone, Android, and iPhone.)
Co-founder Zach Johnston said that even though it was the first time around raising money, but it was easier than they thought. “A lot of connections we made at 500 Startups and NewMe made a big difference, especially for newcomers like us,” he said.
But you dig into their business model, and you can see why. They are not directly competing with web apps like Facebook or YouTube, because their mobile app provides easy access to information about the school as students go about their lives.
Schools themselves, though, totally make out. They don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands dollars on Blackboard, and the app is basically handed to them ready to go. Yup, OneSchool integrates all the features in the app for the schools. “All the info we need is publicly available,” said Johnston, “so we find it, format it and publish it into an API. It takes about a week to put together an app, depending on what sort of condition the data is in.”
I was really curious about how they got their app into Ivy Leagues and big universities. The answer had me laughing. “We just went to schools we liked, created the app and presented it to them.” Obviously, the app works well enough that acquiring customers in this way works well. Kind of a “build it and they will come” approach.
My one concern as OneSchool moves forward: no revenue model. (I’d really like to know why that wasn’t a concern for their investors.) But it is a great concept with an audience eager to adopt the app, so as word gets out, I predict they’ll grow pretty quickly.
Aside from the funding announcement, OneSchool was also recently selected as an alternate in the 2012 SXSW Accelerator programs in the mobile category.
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