USEED Mashes Up Crowdfunding and Entrepreneurial Lessons for Students

USEED Mashes Up Crowdfunding and Entrepreneurial Lessons for Students

Where learning how to raise money becomes part of the college experience.

By Tony Wan     Apr 16, 2013

USEED Mashes Up Crowdfunding and Entrepreneurial Lessons for Students

There's been a lot of steam behind crowdfunding college kids and recent grads. Recently we’ve seen at least two startups--Pave and Upstart--launch platforms where investors can give money to promising, enterprising students in exchange for a cut of their future earnings.

We’ve also seen online platforms designed to help colleges manage alumni relationships, like Graduway and EverTrue. (Or, more realistically, new approaches to ask them for money.)

This isn’t perfect math, but put these two ideas together, and you might see something like USEED, which announced at the ASU/GSV Education Innovation Summit a pilot project with three universities (ASU, Cornell, UVA) to connect universities, alumni, and students via a crowdfunding platform.

The USEED system connects with university’s existing alumni management systems. Students, faculty and staff looking to raise funds for “experiential learning" projects, such as participating in a Engineers Without Borders project, launching a company, or raising awareness for a LGBT club, can submit a project through the university. Approved projects are visible to the alumni network, and donations can be made to the university on behalf of that project.

In a pilot at the University of Delaware, founder and CEO Brian Sowards shared that 77% of the donors were first-timers, many of whom the school would classify as high net-worth individuals. The secret? Transparency. “Donors today want to see exactly where their money is going,” said Sowards.

USEED currently charges $599 per campaign, which runs 30 to 45 days. It guarantees that the group will raise at least that amount. If it doesn’t, the campaign will be extended, and the USEED team will even lend a hand.

This offer of support is part of the team’s grander goal to educate students on the entrepreneurial process. The four members of the team have allotted their time to help out with the projects, dispensing tips and advice on how to market ideas. “Its not enough to just roll out a crowdfunding technology on campus, there is a challenge of educating students on how to be successful with campaigns,” stated Sowards. The team is currently working on a series of videos and tutorials as part of a larger curriculum to teach students the fundamental knowledge behind raising money for their passions.

USEED is accepting pilot applications from colleges for a larger rollout in Fall 2013. “We want to start a movement to empower 100,000 student innovators by 2015,” declared Sowards. “If we can get that number of students to point to a project and say, ‘I made that happen,’ we give them the confidence and the know-how to start and build something. This fundraising process itself is a practicum on entrepreneurship.”

Soward added: “The things that really dramatically influence students’ lives and employability often happens outside the classroom.”

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