I always get excited when I meet young college grads who skipped the campus job fair to give their own business idea a chance.
Wake Forest grads John Kirkpatrick and Ryan Edwards are betting Campus Grumble will let them avoid the corporate life. The Charlotte residents have spent the months since May graduation building a platform that lets students and administrators solve campus issues in real time. They were recently invited to pitch the business at Raleigh’s Startup Summit and at the SHAPE Charlotte Competition last week.
Their goal is for campus problems — with food, parking, exams, or whatever — to be solved long before the students are asked to fill out course-ending or college-ending surveys. By then, it’s too late to change the students’ experiences. And they may not care enough to give honest feedback.
The idea for Campus Grumble came after Edwards paid $500 for a campus parking pass and quickly became frustrated when the university removed half of its parking spots. And in fact, when prompted to take a campus survey at the end of his term, he could name dozens of things Wake Forest could improve. Most were issues he never found the right way to share.
Kirkpatrick and Edwards, despite their ages, are using deep business experience to launch the venture. Both graduated with business degrees and minors in entrepreneurship. Both have already run their own companies. Kirkpatrick recently sold an online marketing firm and Edwards previously ran an organic surf wax manufacturing business.
The Campus Grumble platform lets students and administrators sign up for the site with a valid university-issued email address. There’s no such thing as anonymity here. The site rewards students for giving suggestions and reporting concerns, and for rallying others around the cause. Administrators can log in to track the conversations happening on the site. They also receive monthly reports with all the campus grumbles. (Eventually, they’ll pay for those).
So far, Wake Forest, Elon University, Davidson College and High Point University have beta tests underway. At Wake, administrators recently learned of a bee infestation on campus after 30 students reported it via the site.
The guys plan to target new universities with campus ambassador interns, a model that has worked for promoters or fashion brands. They’ll also sign on high schools, beginning with private schools in Charlotte, and even specialty programs at universities like business and law schools.
It’s hard to predict how quickly the platform could catch on at colleges, but Kirkpatrick and Edwards are certainly close enough to their market to try, learn and pivot as they go.
Regardless of how it all shakes out, these guys are making themselves appealing to any investor or experienced startup founder (who might want a partner or experienced first hire someday). They’ll know the ups and downs of the startup life long before most who start companies, and will take that knowledge and experience into their next big bet too.