Jordan Goldman, Founder of Unigo
Searching for the right college can be stressful, frustrating, and expensive. All those overnight visits; all those hours in the car with mom and dad; all that time spent with the odious Fiske Guide. Jordan Goldman had been there and done that, and the experience left him with a burning desire to make the process easier for future high school graduates.
When he was a freshman at Wesleyan University, Goldman co-edited a book called The Students’ Guide to College, which contained student-generated information that he thought was far more honest and accurate than what appeared in Peterson’s or Fiske. After he graduated, Goldman decided to evolve the concept and start a website where current college students could post reviews and videos about their schools. High school students could then access all the information for free and come away with a pretty good idea of, say, the academics, the cafeteria, or how hot (or not) the girls and guys were. Goldman tapped his alumni network at Wesleyan and landed an angel investment big enough to hire 25 recent grads to rustle up student reviews nationwide. The company, Unigo, launched in September 2008 with 15,000 reviews; within a week, it had 1.5 million page views.
Less than three years later, Unigo has more than 150,000 reviews from more than 4,000 colleges and is one of the biggest sources of college information online. Sure, the content and site functionality are pretty impressive. Sophisticated filters allow students to search for reviews of, say, Boston College, and limit the results only to those written by, for instance, male Hispanic economics majors from the West Coast. But Unigo’s success is due largely to Goldman's ability to forge smart and lucrative strategic partnerships with big brands. Unigo now powers all college reviews for U.S. News & World Report and its staff produces original content about college admissions and college life with The Wall Street Journal. And through a partnership with McGraw-Hill, the company created a full-semester high school curriculum on college and career readiness, which will be taught in high schools nationwide.
Goldman, who is now a regularly-featured education expert for ABC News, says the company generated seven-figure revenues in 2010 through advertising, live events, custom content creation, and data sales. He expects "mid-seven figures" this year. At the very end of June, he’ll announce "a seven-figure fundraise at an eight-figure valuation" with an as yet unnamed strategic investor. "We want to be the number one source of college information on the Internet," says Goldman. And so far, he notes, "we've had fantastic luck."
DONNA FENN | Inc.com Contributing Editor
Donna Fenn is the author of Upstarts! How GenY Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.