"Seeing students and higher-ed communities engage in a meaningful way inspires me."
-- Cathy Copeland Titus, FriendlyU
Q. What prompted you to start FriendlyU?
FriendlyU is a web and mobile app and SaaS software platform. We started in a very personal way when my daughter began the college search. There wasn’t a clear path for her to connect with students at the colleges she was considering. She wanted to ask questions that mattered to her and weren’t being answered, such as political climate, rape culture, LGBT acceptance, party life, etc. Even after a visit, she wasn’t sure if she’d find her tribe, feel accepted and fit in.
Through research, we realized the colleges have an enormous financial problem due to freshman-to-sophomore attrition. The national average is 32% of students either drop out or transfer, representing a significant financial loss. With only 15% of the 32% attributable to academics, social-emotional fit surfaced as the number one culprit, even more than financial concerns. This makes the “right fit” crucial to students and the colleges.
Q. How does your product go about solving this common problem?
Our overarching goal is to help create ecosystems where connected students will thrive and where colleges will see improvement in qualified candidates to meet enrollment goals, and improve retention and completion rates. Our enrollment tools help the college connect with candidates and recognize what matters to them. With student behaviors in the app, we provide predictive data, tell them who their competition is, and what the differences are. Both sides of our marketplace find that “right fit”. Students use the network for free, colleges are our customers.
Q. How has your definition of an entrepreneur changed since you started FriendlyU?
Much less romanticized. I’ve always been in business for myself, but creating a SaaS business and learning how to scale is much more challenging than running a small business. I’ve learned how to wear many hats, and when to hand them off to others as we grow.
Q. How has your original business idea evolved?
The original idea was to connect students at different levels of education to help high schoolers find the right college. About a year ago, we began focusing on our customers, the colleges, to create a robust set of features resulting from the data and communication options we could provide about our student users. We’ve expanded our platform, but not deviated from our core mission. We remain student-centric while creating value for our customers.
Q. What is one of the most important things you have learned while building FriendlyU?
Success comes from the right blend of vision, brilliant solution, exceptional execution, and a little pixie dust.
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