Over the next few days we’ll be profiling the three out-of-town startups that are in residence at the Velocity Accelerator program right across the Second Street Bridge in Jeffersonville, Ind. The inaugural class of Tony Schy’s accelerator includes two Louisville-based startups; read about Large Insights and Collabra here.
Three startups from the West Coast joined Large and Collabra at Velocity on June 6.
Each team receives $20,000 in exchange for 6-percent equity in the company. There are 100 days of Lean Startup programming and access to dozens of top-notch local and national mentors.
Demo Day is August 29.
Our first profile was of Change My School from the Seattle area.
Next up: GreekPull from San Diego, CA.
GreekPull started as a social network to connect members, alumni and potential pledges of the Greek system to each other.
AJ Agrawal, co-founder of GreekPull, held the largest number of leadership positions in the history of the Cal Beta Beta chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon at the University of San Diego. He was his chapter’s “Brother of the Year” when he was a Junior.
Agrawal knew what his brothers and other members of the Greek system wanted: a way to keep their alumni involved.
Only 5 percent of Greek alumni keep in touch with their chapters. This is a pain point for organizations and for individual chapters. Alumni are the main source of fundraising for Greek system.
And every Greek organization promises a “lifetime of brotherhood” or a “lifetime of sisterhood.”
It’s hardly a “lifetime” for that other 95 percent.
So in June 2012, just as he was entering his Senior year, Agrawal teamed up with finance major (and non-Greek) Eghosa Aihie to create GreekPull. Aihie had been working with Ernst and Young and had worked with some Silicon Valley startups. “This sparked me to want to be on the other side of the table,” he says.
“And then I met this big idea guy.”
He means Agrawal, of course.
Version one of the GreekPull pitch video:
Shortly after Aihie and Agrawal teamed up and started making plans for GreekPull, one of Agrawal’s Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers found himself unable to pay his fraternity dues. The brother didn’t qualify for help from the national organization and tried, and failed, to find other resources.
Because of his brother’s experience, Agrawal discovered that he could address something that the Greek system needs, not just something that the Greek system wants.
Chapters need a way to keep their alumni in touch. And they need fundraising help– help that these alumni are able to give.
So GreekPull didn’t exactly pivot, but Aihie and Agrawal did tweak the business plan.
Now, GreekPull is a crowdfunding site for the Greek system. It allows members of the system and individual chapters to post their needs online, and it allows Greek alumni to know exactly where their donation is going.
This is a better business model, say the co-founders. At its heart, it’s social capitalism– do good and make a profit.
Let’s say a sorority sister is planning a summer service trip to Nicaragua and needs help funding it. She can post her project online, give all kinds of details about where and why she’s going, what her plans are while she’s there. She can set a financial goal and a campaign length.
And, like with Kickstarter, this project gets posted to GreekPull and becomes searchable. Her alumni sisters– on the national or chapter level– can then support her by donating money to the project.
Unlike Kickstarter, GreekPull will pay out if the project financial goal is not met. If the project receives donations for just 75 percent of the goal, then GreekPull will pay out that 75 percent, minus the small percentage that GreekPull holds back as a fee, just as most crowdfunding sites do.
That’s the revenue model for now. GreekPull is also considering a subscription model where organizations or chapters pay a monthly fee to be featured.
Members posting projects will be encouraged to update their project page and show their crowdfunders’ money in action. This is the “connection” part of GreekPull. Agrawal says that he hopes that active members will create “longstanding relationships” with the alumni who help fund them.
It’s not just individual members that can post project. If a chapter house needs a hot water heater, that’s a goal that can be funded. If a national organization needs a capital campaign, that can be funded too.
So far, Aihie has lined up more than eight national organizations who are going to give GreekPull access to their data bases. Aihie’s job is a tough one; Greek organizations are pitched so often that they’re reluctant to give time to startups. He’s also contacting individual chapter presidents to make sure that by Day One of the site going live it will be populated by projects to fund.
And Aihie couldn’t be in a better place when it comes to the sales side of the business. He estimates that close to fifty percent of all Greek organizations have their headquarters in or near Indiana. There are 25 headquarters of Greek Organizations in Indianapolis alone.
We don’t want to cry wolf or count chickens, but because of the proximity of the Greek headquarters to the Louisville area, it’s possible that the GreekPull team could stick around.
But it’s more than the location and the low cost of living that appeals to them.
Like Bryce Anderson from Change My School, Agrawal and Aihie heaped praise on Kentuckiana startup community from the moment we sat down.
Aihie said that he loves the hospitality and that the startup community feels “synergistic” to him.
Agrawal said, “There’s such an excitement around the startup community here. And being a part of it is exciting.”
What’s a typical day look like for the co-founders of GreekPull?
They get up around 6:30 a.m. and answer emails. Then the gym. Their first office meeting is at 9:07 a.m. (Why 9:07 a.m.? It’s just a thing they do.) They work until 11 a.m. and then they have mentor meetings with whomever Tony Schy has lined up for the day; those last as long as four of five hours. Then there’s more work. And then maybe drinks with the other members of this Velocity class.
It seems like the inaugural class of Velocity has already become a tight-knit group.
Agrawal and Aihie did their research before they applied to accelerators, and during that process, Velocity and the Louisville area ecosystem became their first choice. Tony Schy, they said, was a big part of the draw.
Aihie estimates that they have around 640 individual chapters already signed up to be a part of GreekPull. Agrawal expects a “hockey stick graph of growth” while they are in the Velocity program. They hope to launch before the school year starts.
There’s a side benefit to this entreprise as well, according to Agrawal. He hopes this site helps the Greek community break through negative stereotypes that plague them.
“Undergraduate Greeks do so much philanthropy,” he says. The site can “show people outside of Greek life the really good side of the Greek system.”