Technical.ly Philly

Mar. 15, 2012 10:04 am

USeed: university donor engagement platform launches at UDelaware, part of Philly Tech Meetup [VIDEO]

The founder of USeed, a new online donor engagement platform for universities, shared a startling new statistic that motivates his company: “85 percent of students move home when they graduate and don’t get a job in the field they have a degree in.” Brian Sowards, founder and CEO, thinks the Delaware-based USeed can help change […]

The founder of USeed, a new online donor engagement platform for universities, shared a startling new statistic that motivates his company: “85 percent of students move home when they graduate and don’t get a job in the field they have a degree in.”

Brian Sowards, founder and CEO, thinks the Delaware-based USeed can help change that by motivating donors to invest in student projects instead of broad university programs. The platform launched in beta at the University of Delaware about a week prior to Soward showing a demo of USeed to attendees at the Philly Tech Meetup Wednesday.

“The 800 pound gorilla in innovation and education is one thing and one thing only. It’s getting administrators and educators on the same side of the table,” said Sowards. “Right now faculty have to fight the bureaucracy to bring innovation to the classroom. We’re a gamechanger for that.”

USeed works by acting as a warehouse of student projects. The platform holds all the student entrepreneurial projects created by a particular university, in this case the University of Delaware, and places them under a single paged branded by the participating university. Each project is denoted by a picture with a sign post for how many “points” i.e., donations that project has received. Interested donors can click the “Learn More” button to see a description of the project, often a short video, and an explanation of the specific goals the donation will help the group achieve.

“We’re a Gen Y company,” Soward said. “We see students who want to do a lot of different things and schools keep trying to put them in boxes. Project based learning sets that creativity free.”

Soward said there is also a gamification layer that allows potential donors to help projects earn points by sharing the projects on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks. The site is also integrated with LinkedIn so professionals can offer advice and professional guidance in a LinkedIn group, a strategy Soward thinks will help students expand their professional networks.

By partnering with universities, instead of students, donors are able to make tax deductible donations, Sowards says. USeed makes money by charging an annual licensing fee to the university as well as taking a transaction fee on each donation made on the site, said Soward.

Soward says in the two months since the site has been live, he has already had 20 universities express interest in working with him and the rest of his four-man team.

Making a donation to a project is not analogous to making an investment in a startup, Soward explained, “it’s making a gift to to an education process.”

During the Soward’s demo at the Philly Tech Meetup, an internet snafu prevented him from completing his full demo, so his presentation consisted largely of him taking questions from the audience. You can see the full video below:

Sowards then took his remaining demo minutes to explain why he’s so passionate about what USeed can do for college students and universities:

Three other startups joined USeed at the third Philly Tech Meetup of 2012, which brought the theme of education technology to a packed house at the Quorum space in the University City Science Center. Lokalty, a University City-based loyalty rewards program Technically Philly recently covered and earned some air time at 6ABC provided pizza. The meetup was also professionally videotaped for the first time.

In addition to USeed, GoodSemester, Plum Analytics, and Nfoshare all gave live demos, along with a brief introductory presentation from Transmogrify, a Conshohocken-based web development shop that has started offering programming classes for elementary school students and mentoring high school-age interns who want guidance in creating a web or mobile tool.

The night was rounded out by a PTM happy hour at the City Tap House, since Mid-Atlantic, the usual happy hour venue, has closed, reminded PTM organizer Rohan Mehta.

GoodSemester:

Technically Philly reported on the launch of the GoodSemester public beta here. At the PTM demo, GoodSemester founder Jason Rappaport also announced partnerships with 20 Million Minds Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.

Plum Analytics:

Technically Philly reported on the launch of the Plum Analytics alpha here.

NfoShare:

NfoShare is a social communication platform for college students to ask questions, said founder Nikhil Paul.

Paul announced that in addition to the NfoShare trials being run at the University of Delaware and Philadelphia University, Rutgers University will begin incorporating NfoShare as one of its educational resources next semester.

“We want to grow NfoShare as a culture at universities,” said Paul.

Perhaps the other 800 pound gorilla was in the Quorum space last night, since the overlap of NfoShare and GoodSemester was clear in their shared focus on what Paul called “the social aspect of learning.”

Nothing like a little healthy competition.

If you’re interested in Transmogrify’s new programming classes for the younger set, you can see video Kelley’s short presentation below:

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Yael Borofsky was the lead reporter for Technically Philly from from December 2011 to June 2012 before leaving to pursue an urban studies graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously she was an editor with the Breakthrough Journal in San Francisco. She loves hockey and coffee.

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