Business Rx: To get people out of the dorm, these students first need to get them on their site


Tim Tolino, left, and Duncan Graham. (Tony Richards)
December 11, 2011
The Entrepreneurs

When Duncan Graham was a freshman at the University of Maryland, he realized that he and his friends had no real grasp on activities that were happening on and around the campus and in Washington. So Graham began to develop a site for students offering a comprehensive list of all the local goings-on. He and a team of students, including fellow Terp Tim Tolino, launched NeverBoredU.com in fall 2010.

The Pitch

Graham

“NeverBoredU was created to enrich the lives of students by serving as an information hub for all local events. The idea came to me freshman year, and after teaching myself Web coding languages, researching Web business and running a beta version to gauge interest, I relaunched it this past semester with Tim’s help. The service includes information about outdoor activities, music and art, food and drink, and more. It is currently available at the University of Maryland College Park, St. Mary’s College and Ohio State University.

“NeverBoredU is similar to other sites in existence in that it is a compilation of events, but other sites are typically geared toward the 21-and-older crowd. Within the first day- and-a-half of the launch, most of the sports teams reached out to us to get their games on NeverBoredU. Many Greek Life organizations have shown a lot of interest as well. Currently, we have about 100 unique visits to the site every day.”

Tolino

“After our original launch, we decided we wanted users to have input with NeverBoredU. We did a redesign and included a user submission tab. We monitor everything that is added to the site, but it is a great asset for us to have others uploading because before it was just Duncan and I, and we were bound to overlook events.”

“The homepage has a ‘Get NeverBoredU at Your School’ button, and we are looking to spread the word on the East Coast and then expand nationwide. When you are in college there is so much to do, and most of it is free, so it is almost unacceptable to be sitting in your room. We are making it easier for students to figure out just how to occupy their free time.”

Graham

“The two challenges we are currently wrestling with are monetization and traction. We’ve researched affiliate marketing, advertising, event sponsorship, coupons, product design, selling event participation [and] data, etc. We plan on trying many of these, but we’d really appreciate any insight as to what might work best for us. As far as traction goes, since we are students at the University of Maryland our main focus is gaining traction at this university first.”

The Advice

Harry Geller, Entrepreneur in Residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“When it comes to monetizing NeverBoredU, advertising alone isn’t going to cut it. While you guys are a single-college startup, you’re not going to have that many views so the revenue from ads just won’t be there. One route you could take is to talk with other college-centric Web sites about advertising with you or trading advertisements on each other’s Web sites — there is a host of people who would have synergistic value for getting together with you guys.

“Getting traction is a question that has no real answer. For NeverBoredU, I think the guerilla way you are attacking the problem right now is the best way to do it. Hand out fliers, hand out cards, make T-shirts — anything to get eyes on your product. Since you don’t have a big pool of money to do billboards and other costly forms of advertisements, you have to take those examples and replicate them as inexpensively as possible.

“One final thing, keep in mind that for NeverBoredU to be successful at other universities across the nation, you must have an easy-to-replicate business plan. If you know someone at [the University of North Carolina] who wants their school to be a NeverBoredU school, they should be able to follow your model and have their NeverBoredU site up in 72 hours.”

The Reaction

Graham

“Our next step is to better integrate the Web site with Facebook. In an earlier version, students could ‘like’ a NeverBoredU event on Facebook and it would link to the NeverBoredU Web site. Similarly, we want to have a social networks tab on the site and to create a Twitter hash tag for NeverBoredU. We also need to start analyzing where our traffic is coming from. We think that through Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth that news will start to spread quickly about NeverBoredU. In our minds, if NeverBoredU is really as good of a product as we think it is, it will take off and people will be really excited to use it.”

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