Founded in June 2007, the Palo Alto-based company of 30 has received over $10.2 million in funding from Founders Fund, Retro Ventures, and the Gates Foundation (its first investment in a for-profit company). The company has won the most traction for its "Schools App," which allows admitted college students to connect with peers, alumni, faculty and staff based on common interests or studies. Over 140 colleges and universities have used it; case studies on the company's website paint a picture of an increase in students’ engagement with campus community and retention rates.
But in April 2012, Facebook rolled out its own “Groups for Schools” tool with similar features. “We were scared at first,” admits Chief Operating Officer, Brooks Morgan. “But it turns out that it didn’t really affect our adoption and engagement. Students didn’t flock to it, and it didn’t change our relationship with existing schools [customers].”
Morgan says the lackluster interest in Facebook’s offering suggests that college students may not be as active on Facebook as they once were. “More students have Facebook accounts than anything else. But at the same time, they’re spending more and more of their time on other apps on other platform,” says Morgan.
In late 2012, Uversity launched its own iPhone, Android, and mobile web version of Schools App. “We saw ourselves as being platform agnostic and didn’t want to be tied to any [one] application,” says Morgan. More than half of the company's traffic now comes from mobile devices, he adds.
Now Uversity aims to grow its audience with a new product, UChat. The widget can be embedded on a school’s admissions website to allow prospective students to chat with administrators, current students, or alumni based on common interests, hobbies or majors. UChat will make “enrollment intelligence predictions,” contends Uversity execs, and provide colleges with data on how many students are likely to apply and enroll. Uversity plans to launch the tool with 13 schools by September.
“Through our surveys, a lot of high school kids don’t necessarily trust the info that schools put out,” says CEO Jamie Glenn. “Our shift is from fostering connections between students who are already admitted, to those who are in the process of searching for schools.”
The announcement of this tool comes on the heels of a similar service unveiled by LinkedIn's new product, University Pages, which aims to help the same crowd connect with universities. (Already, it's raised eyebrows.)
Targeting this new demographic was one of the main reasons for the name change from Inigral to Uversity, according to Marketing Manager, Brandon Croke. “For a long time, Inigral has been known for just the Facebook Schools App. Our new name, Uversity, signals that we’re expanding beyond that and building more products to keep up with student trends.”
Morgan adds, “we realized it was important to have a brand that’s both university- and student-facing.”
(Editor's note: EdSurge's Nick Punt was part of Inigral's founding team.)