Entrepreneurs: Dan Thibodeau and Justin Gather
Business name: eCampus Ventures
Years in business: 4 years
Website address: www.eCampusVentures.com
When former college roommates Dan Thibodeau and Justin Gather launched their first mobile app to help students find compatible roommates, they knew they were onto something big. The basic "profile match" concept behind RoomSurf was certainly not new, but the entrepreneurial duo sought to capture a previously untapped market in niche social networks — college students. What started as a solution to a common college problem grew into a service used by more than 500,000 students at 1,000 U.S. schools.
One year after Roomsurf's 2010 launch, Thibodeau and Gather started textbook price comparison service TextSurf, and in April 2014, they introduced JoinU, a mobile social network app that connects students on campus based on common characteristics. Under the umbrella of their company eCampus Ventures, the young entrepreneurs hope to integrate their services to make college "more social, affordable and fun" for students across the country.
The co-founders shared their thoughts on mobile tech, the social networking industry and how technology will affect the education sphere in the coming years. [3 Social Media Tips for Marketing to College Students]
eCampus Ventures founders Dan Thibodeau and Justin Gather Credit: eCampus Ventures
Business News Daily: What problem were you hoping to solve when you started your business?
Dan Thibodeau: We wanted to create a specific group of applications and solutions just for the college market. Since Facebook has expanded beyond the college market, students are left with an array of social media options, but nothing that helps them instantly connect with students on their campus. JoinU helps incoming freshmen connect with others in their university specifically, before they even step foot on campus. RoomSurf and TextSurf help students solve real dorm-life dilemmas, [with solutions that] weren't available previously.
BND: Could your business have existed 20 years ago?
Justin Gather: No, we wouldn't have existed 20 years ago. Mobile technology has come such a long way since then, and the introduction of social media has completely changed the way we connect and interact with others.
BND: What technology has been the greatest help to your business?
D.T.: Social networking. The speed and ease at which people can spread information, especially among peers, has enabled our student users to quickly recommend our services to their friends. Peer recommendations and ease of communication through social media have been instrumental in driving our user base since we launched.
BND: What technology can't you live without?
J.G.: Email and other social media, as it allows us to stay connected as a company internally and communicate with our customers, partners and other stakeholders.
BND: If you could hire one extra employee right now, what would you have that person do?
D.T.: Our biggest need right now is a full-time iOS developer to speed up app iterations.
BND: What technology do you wish existed that doesn't?
J.G.: Teleportation, so the problem of relocation for work would forever be solved. It would also cut down on rush hour!
BND: What technology do you think is most overrated?
D.T.: There have been many examples of new technologies that seem pointless or unnecessary, but are later used in an innovative and very useful way. As an example, fingerprint scanning technology to unlock a phone seems like overkill — however, there are many use cases that can be streamlined, such as payments and health information.
BND: Where do you see technology in your industry going over the next three to five years?
J.G.: Technology will play a huge role in the ed-tech space in the next three to five years. Data profiles for students and teachers will be used to customize the learning experience at an individual level, and technology will replace many outdated facets of learning.
BND: What's the most valuable nontech skill an entrepreneur needs?
D.T.: Though there are many to choose from, the ability to quickly adapt to changes and adjust course when necessary is the most valuable skill for an entrepreneur to have. Dwight D. Eisenhower may have said it best in regards to adapting: "I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
Originally published on Business News Daily