Coolest College Start-ups 2011
GenJuice, University of California-BerkeleySmsPrep, Princeton UniversityMissOandFriends.com, Washington University in St. LouisBlack Swan Solar, Stanford UniversityMin.Us, Babson CollegeooShirts, University of California-BerkeleyBook Hatchery, University of Northern IowaMotycka Enterprises, University of ColoradoTrue You Cosmetics, Spelman CollegeToepener, University of Minnesota Solé Bicycles, University of Southern CaliforniaGetchaBooks, Tufts UniversityPoverUP, University of PennsylvaniaLucid Technologies, University of Miami
Founders: Arielle Patrice Scott (right), a senior majoring in Information Technology and Media (a major she created at Berkeley), runs GenJuice along with 2008 Berkeley grad Danielle Leslie (left) and Gleb Podkolzin.
Concept: Online news and entertainment for motivated young adults.
Goal: Be the MTV for the entrepreneurial generation.
Revenue: None; seeking seed funding.
Biggest challenge: Solidifying a vision. "We knew who our audience was, but didn’t have a system for connecting. When everyone started asking for content, that's when it started making sense," Scott says.
Founder: Breanden Beneschott, a senior chemical and biological engineering major who frequently tutored his sister in organic chemistry over SMS.
Concept: SmsPREP provides scheduled study SAT, ACT, GRE, and MCAT questions to subscribers via text messages.
Goals: Grow by increasing subscribers, offer GMAT questions, and incorporating a gaming aspect to the company.
Funding and revenue: Personal investment, plus $35,000 in seed funding from a business incubator. Subscription-based revenue model, from $9.99 to $19.99 per month.
Biggest challenge: Finding and hiring really good technical talent and developers for the site.
Founder: Juliette Brindak began working on the social-entertainment site for tweens when she was just a teen herself. Today she's a CEO and a senior majoring in anthropology and public health.
Concept: Girls-only online community for tweens, where girls ages 8 to 14 can safely interact and get advice.
Funding: As of a 2008 investment of $350 million by Proctor & Gamble, the company was valued at $15 million. It relies on advertising, partnerships, and book sales for revenue.
Takeaway: "It's incredible that the company's aim—to instill confidence in girls—has actually been something that's happened simultaneously to me."
Founder: Tom Currier is only in his second year of college, but he's already considered a serial inventor who has started nine companies and founded one non-profit. Currier recently brought on an experienced CEO who specializes in nanotechnology.
Concept: Create and patent innovations in harnessing solar and alternative energy.
Goal: Solve the world's energy crisis.
Revenue and funding: Undisclosed; currently working on a second round of investment.
Dream: Open up an invention shop in New Zealand. "The beauty of solar is you go where the sun is," Currier says.
Founders: John Xie, a senior majoring in entrepreneurship, spent just a month creating this minimalist file-sharing site along with engineer Carl Hu. Now, the site is soaring in popularity—and with a SXSW app launch, it's getting plenty of investor attention.
Concept: The Web's simplest online file sharing.
Goal: Make online sharing easier, more accessible, and safer.
Revenue and funding: None.
Biggest challenge: "Staying in and working on the company while all your friends are out partying," Xie says.
Founder: Raymond Lei was in high school when he decided to found ooShirts, upon being unable to find affordable customizable T-shirts for his tennis club. Now he's a sophomore business major at Berkeley.
Concept: Online custom-printing T-shirt company.
Goal: Continued overall growth in suppliers, customers, employees and revenue.
Revenue: About $2.2 million at the end of 2010.
Founder: Nick Cash, a senior double-major in computer science and economics, is also pursuing a certificate in entrepreneurship.
Concept: A service that helps authors publish their works digitally across all e-reader platforms, free. Book Hatchery takes 15 percent of royalties; authors get 85 percent.
Revenue: With a dozen books published, the company has revenue of just more than $2,000 and is currently seeking angel investment.
Founder: Emil Motycka is a senior majoring in economics and business. He built his sizable landscaping and groundskeeping company out of a class idea—from back in third grade.
Concept: Hired groundskeeping services (pay per job), landscaping projects, and outdoor-work contracts.
Funding: Recently acquired seven competing small companies; income of more than $250,000 per year.
Goal: Acquire more small competitors and bring them under a new umbrella brand.
Takeaway: "Through college, you got friends who always have the internships at the Wall Street firms, or the Silicon Valley tech companies—the sexy jobs—but when push comes to shove, I think a lot more money can be made doing something nobody wants to do."
Founder: Jessica Truesdale, a senior sociology major.
Concept: Makeup line and beauty products inspired by women from her family as well as Hollywood beauty icons.
Funding: Undisclosed, but the brand's first line of lip products generated $8,000 in revenue.
Biggest struggle: "As a young entrepreneur, when I first started my business the hardest part for me was establishing the correct platform for marketing my company. Since there are so many various platforms to choose from such as print, radio, television, pay per click, I went through a process testing the best options."
Founder: Senior Max Arndt's idea for an entrepreneurship class charmed his professor and fellow students, and now they're all working on selling and marketing the Toepener.
Concept: Hands-free door-opening hardware.
Funding: A $15,000 loan from the university, plus sales. The company hopes to break even by the end of the semester.
"Aha" moment: "I knew it was something of an annoyance to go to a public bathroom and touch the door handle. But there was no shock moment," Arndt says. "This class gave me that moment to solve the problem."
Founder: With a mutual love for fixed-gear bikes, frat brothers Jake Medwell, a senior entrepreneurship major, and Jonathan Shriftman, a recent USC grad, are now bringing hipster wheels to the masses.
Concept: Importing and selling hip fixed-gear flexible bicycles at a flat-rate price of $310.
Goal: Bring fixies to the masses.
Funding: Bootstrapping, with sales of more than $300,000.
Biggest challenge: Not enough working capital. "We don't have enough money to buy bikes," Medwell says.
Founders: Richard Mondello and Michael White, both Tufts juniors majoring in computer science, along with Michael Walker, a senior computer science major at Bard.
Concept: Aggregates college textbooks online by individual courses to find the best deals.
Goal: "To save as many students as much money as possible on their textbooks," Mondello says.
Funding model: The site earns affiliate commissions through Amazon.com, Half.com, ItBooks, and Chegg.
Advice: "I can't recommend enough going out—even if you're vaguely technically minded—and just starting something," Mondello says. "The last year has been the most action-packed learning experience that I've ever had."
Founder: Sophomore entrepreneurship major Charlie Javice.
Concept: A non-profit microfinance initiative.
Funding model: Student investments and matching funding from sponsorships.
Goal: Mobilize and unite students around microfinance and its power to fight poverty.
Founder: Tyler McIntyre, a sophomore triple major in entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance, is bootstrapping his third tech company.
Concept: A multi-platform messaging system.
Goal: "I'd really like to develop applications the world uses. The game's not about money for me; it's more about I want to meet somebody and have them say, 'I use that app everyday. It's the best app ever.'"
Funding model: Three channels of revenue, including app purchases, contracts to build applications, and advertising through networks (pay per click).
Status: "I'd rather have a million users than a million dollars."