Between all the idle hours, alcohol and hormones, colleges are natural incubators for social networks, as demonstrated by the dramatic rise of Facebook, founded in a Harvard dorm room back in 2004.
Of course, Facebook soon outgrew its college niche, opening itself to the great washed masses in 2006. Now, there’s a new crop of college-only social networks seeking to recreate
Facebook’s original exclusive environment.
The most recent addition is Blend, a mobile social app founded in October of last year, which just raised $2.7 million in seed funding
from New Enterprise Associates (NEA), with additional participation from Trinity Ventures, Foundation Capital, Lerer Ventures, Maveron, BoxGroup, XG Ventures and SparkLabs Global Ventures.
Blend has an interesting mass participatory approach. Each day, the social network posts a “theme” and invites users to share photos based on it. Other users then judge the
photos with “Snaps” (basically “likes”). Members can then use the “Snaps” as a social currency to buy Blend Gifts, including products and gift cards from popular
brands. Blend currently has partnerships with over 200 “trendy, college-relevant” companies, including Uber, Chegg, Rowdy Gentleman, Fraternity Collection and Alex & Ani.
To prove its collegiate credibility, Blend even indulges in some good old-fashioned school rivalry. The app, which was created by students at the University of Michigan, is open to
students from every school in the country except UMich's archrival Ohio State. (We’ll see how long that lasts.) Currently, it claims to have 50,000 daily users, solely through word of mouth.
Last year, a student at Penn State, Pawel Puchalski, founded a social network to facilitate academic interactions, CourseGroups, where students and professors can discuss coursework,
share notes, organize study groups, take practice exams, collaborate on projects, etc.
Also last year, the University of Texas unveiled a social platform, called HornsLink, that is
open to students with a University of Texas identification number. UT students can use HornsLink to connect with other students and organizations, get customized recommendations for events and
organizations based on their profile interests, and receive regular updates about university affairs.