Q&A with CampusTap Founder and CEO, Remy Carpinito
EdTech Times spoke with Remy Carpinito, CEO and Founder of CampusTap. CampusTap develops and provides a private social network for both colleges and students, thus increasing student engagement in Higher Ed market. Read below what Remy had to share with us.
Company at Glance:
Founders: Remy Carpinito (CEO & Founder) and Alan Wilhelm (CTO and Co-Founder)
Category: Higher Education, EdTech
Product stage: (early stage, beta, market) Market
LinkedIn company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/campustap
Company Twitter: @campustap
CampusTap Overview on YouTube: http://youtu.be/UwwXzLLXIzY
ETT: What is the market segment your company is in?
RC: CampusTap is a solution for student engagement and success in the Higher Education market.
It is a private social network for colleges creating a more connected community and enabling schools to better understand their students. Students are recommended to: peers, groups, events, jobs and alumni based on their field of study and personal interests. In addition, we aggregate student activity and interactions across the platform to provide administrators with insights to better understand students’ needs.
ETT: Who are your core customers?
RC: Our customers within colleges span across Student Life, Career Services and Alumni Relations.
ETT: How did you come across the problem you’re addressing and how did you define it – what was your process in identifying it?
RC: I became aware of the issues of communication and student engagement when I was a student at Suffolk University. As I shifted focus from baseball to my career, I wanted to get involved on campus and I was repeatedly suggested the most popular clubs, none of which matched my interests. So I took to a poster board in the dining hall and found a flyer for an event sponsored by the Information Systems club. When I went to the event, which was an on-campus recruiting event by Fidelity, there were only a dozen students in attendance because the group had been promoting the event through flyers, emails and Facebook posts. I got an internship which later turned into a full-time job offer from attending that event and I thought to myself, if more people knew of these career opportunities there would have been more students at that event.
I set out to create CampusTap, a platform that cuts out the noise, makes it easier for students to get involved and build their career by recommending them to relevant, helpful information.
After speaking with dozens of colleges, our product truly addresses the overarching issue of school-wide communication. Because students are bombarded with information from their schools on 3rd party social networks, learning management systems and email, they choose to disengage. When students ‘turn off’ from university communications, important information and announcements are missed.
ETT: And how did you develop a solution to this particular problem and what was your process of arriving at it?
RC: After seeing these issues first-hand as a student, I met with dozens of colleges in the Greater Boston area to determine if these issues were only prevalent at Suffolk University. I quickly realized that all schools were experiencing issues of communication and engagement – no matter the type of institution. These issues stemmed from outdated software and relying on email, on-campus flyers and 3rd party social networks to disseminate information. In addition, we discovered that a software did not exist to bridge the gap between Student Life departments and Career Services while there is an evident correlation between extracurricular experience and job success.
We conducted a beta test with over 500 students at Suffolk University and observed on-campus event attendance, group participation and student engagement increase during this period. Students were logging in to the network multiple times a day to connect with peers, post information and check out what was happening on campus. Even during times of absence such as spring break, we saw hundreds of photos uploaded to the network. During the test we repeatedly heard from students how easy CampusTap was to use and that it was not another profile or one more network for them to join but instead the one place they could go to find relevant information quickly.
ETT: What it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors? And do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?
RC: One thing that was very important to us in creating CampusTap was user experience and design. Students today are accustomed to simple, intuitive, and clean design from their experience with consumer applications however, Higher Education software design is stuck in the past. Most systems are complex, slow and not responsive. With CampusTap, students enjoy using it because the experience is similar to the way they utilize existing social networks.
In addition to the design of CampusTap, our product differs from our competitors because we engage students throughout the student lifecycle. Competitors only focus on one component of the student experience whether its on-campus events and clubs, jobs and internships or alumni engagement forcing colleges to have multiple systems, which rarely communicate with each other.
What will distinguish CampusTap from other Higher Education software over the coming months will be our mobile application and additional features we plan to roll out.
ETT: Please tell us more about your product stage and what we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your potential next milestones.
RC: After conducting a successful beta test at Suffolk University in 2013, we made several alterations and completed our first version of the product. We were then selected for MassChallenge in the summer of 2014. During the incubator, we landed MIT and Suffolk University as our first customers. We are currently deployed at these schools and recently closed our seed round of funding.
In the coming months, we will be partnering with more colleges and universities as we are already in talks with over 20 schools in the Greater Boston area. We are also starting to experience significant interest from colleges outside the Boston area from the Mid-West to the West Coast.
ETT: Are you a disruptor, and why so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in near foreseeable future or become a more mature company? Why is that so?
RC: CampusTap is a disruptor because it’s shifting the focus from having a software that checks the boxes and is rarely used to a software thats built for the students. Most companies have succeeded selling software to administrations with lacking user interfaces and older legacy systems while the next generation and true innovators in the space are building API-based applications, with modern technology and clean design thats truly consumer grade which students are accustomed to.
As we continue to grow and collect data, we’re going to become a bigger disruptor in Higher Education since we’ll be able to visualize student trends from freshman year all the way to becoming Alumni. We’ll be able to respond quickly to those trends by iterating on the product.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
RC: While I was studying Information Systems as an undergrad, I started a small technology consulting company where I helped small businesses maintain networks and servers. I wanted to learn more about software so I started taking more technical courses and interned as a database analyst at Fidelity Investments.
I started CampusTap while I was still in college and met my CTO & Co-Founder, Alan Wilhelm who was part of several successful startups. A couple of Alan’s previous experiences include working at Citeline, a large data intelligence firm for pharmaceutical research which was acquired, and Radius Intel, one of the first marketing intelligence platforms who was started by one of Facebook’s early employees.
ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you through the startup stages of the company? Who is that mentor?
RC: I have several mentors to thank for where CampusTap is today. George Moker, Director of Entrepreneurship at Suffolk University and Amy Blitz, Professor of Strategy at Babson College encouraged me to start the company and I have had ongoing communication with them throughout the process. Additional mentors that I am frequently in contact with include Michael DiPietro, Vice President of Supply Chain Management at Gartner, Bob DeMaria, Partner at Rally Software and Joe Dello Russo, a Finance and Ops professional.
ETT: Where do you see the education technology market going in the next few years?
RC: We see the EdTech market continuing to move toward SaaS products, modern architecture and doing away with legacy systems. Additionally, data aggregation will be one of the top priorities for colleges and universities to better understand their future, current and past students.
Lastly, students are becoming more aware of the high costs of a college education and want to see direct career outcomes so technologies that can show these outcomes will continue to be very important.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
RT: Do as much research as you can to understand the real pain point in the market by speaking with key stakeholders such as students, faculty, and administrators. Leverage the captive audience in the Higher Ed space and iterate quickly as you gather feedback from stakeholders. If you have the opportunity to work for a startup or corporate company in the Higher Ed space before launching your company… do so.
EdTech Times is grateful to Remy for taking his time to connect with our readers, and we recommend you learn more about CampusTap at:
Yevgeny Ioffe, or as people call him, Yev, has been working in both the startup world and established companies. His career spans from joining Xplana Learning as it launched to Cengage Learning to MBS Direct when it acquired Xplana in 2009. Yevgeny brings to EdTech Times his passion for start-ups and technology, along with his interest in the ever evolving world of edtech. Yevgeny obtained his BSc and MA from Brandeis University and MBA from Boston College.