I found a venture called “After School” on the AngelList, which is headquartered in San Francisco. My main interest in this venture is that is markets itself as a replacement for Facebook. Many of my students have set up pages for courses (often without teachers awareness), and unfortunately this sometimes leads to student exclusion (only some of the class participates).
The app initially faced a ban from the App Store due to violating safety standards (bullying and harrassment from students) but has managed to avoid being ‘sunk’ by having curated posts and has raised over $16 million in one year. Information on the “After School” fall and rise can be found here. There have been concerns raised regarding bullying and some schools have instituted a ban. It seems to be wildly popular for students, as millions have downloaded the app.
The app is currently not available in Canada, and it’s unclear if it plans to launch here. Global News wrote an article about it last December:
Learning Technology Venture name: After School: Replacing Facebook for Teens
- Description of Venture (primary products, services, original value proposition): (from https://angel.co/afterschool):
- After School is the fastest growing social network for teens.
- After School is a private newsfeed and message board for high schools. On After School, students post compliments to each other, experiences that they’ve had in the form of confessions, ask questions to their classmates with surveys, and more.
- After School is becoming a source of news and entertainment for teens.
- After School is the digital destination for kids when they aren’t in school
- After School is a private social network that allows American high school students to share and connect with fellow students at their same school
- On After School, students can share openly and honestly, without fearing judgment or ridicule. They choose whether to reveal their name or remain private.
- After School’s innovative features channel students toward making new connections and friendships, and engaging in positive offline activities.
- The messages students share are overwhelmingly positive – compliments, notes of encouragement and support, and ideas for fun in-person activities.
There are also sections describing the Safety for students using the app: https://afterschoolapp.com/safety.html … as well as an FAQ page: https://afterschoolapp.com/faq.html
- Author/Founders names, title, & photo – Michael Callahan (Founder) (left), Cory Levy (Co-Founder) (right).
- Analysis of Author’s background (critical analysis of their background, skills and motivation relative to the prospective and prescribed attributes of successful entrepreneurs):
Michael Callahan (from AngelList): “Mobile Innovator. Conducted world’s first voiceless cell phone call. Popular Science’s Inventions of the Year. Kauffman Foundation Young Innovator.” His wiki page states, “He is the co-founder and CEO of ONE, Inc.” He has achived several awards for his innovation; in 2007, Michael became the first student from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to be awarded the MIT-Lemelson Foundation award for Outstanding Innovation.
Michael seems to possess many of the attributes of a successful entrepreneur. His willingness to stand by his product despite multiple setbacks (being banned from the app store, facing numerous complaints about cyberbullying) and listen to what the public was saying about his product, then instituting necessary changes, shows he has the ‘toughness’ to stick it out. He recruited a Safety Board to advise on security and anti-bullying issues, and added https://www.DoSomething.org as an official partner (which bills itself as, “Largest organization for social change volunteers and community service, with 5392342 members and counting.”)
There was an article posted about Cory Levy being “then next Zuckerburg” due to the fact that he was able to raise $1 million for the app by the age of 19. His wiki page states that, “Prior to leaving the University of Illinois to launch ONE, Inc., where he was studying computer science, with co-founder Michael Callahan, Cory held internships at TechStars, Union Square Ventures, and Founders Fund.” I should also note that his wiki page is entitled “Michael Callahan (entrepreneur)”, whereas Cory’s does not.
- Quality of team & Board of advisors:
The Founders have 5 employees working for them as well as an attorney.
- Ethan Berl – worked at @After School • Studied at @Princeton University
- Austin Walker -backend software engineer @After School • Studied CS at @Princeton University
- Dmitry Perkin – Talent Magnet “I help match top-notch job seekers with roles in the best bay area start-ups (all while leveraging technology to streamline the process).”
- Alexander Bass – Worked at @After School • Studied at @Columbia College Chicago
- Peter Rock Ternes
The ‘story’ of the app can be found in a lengthy blog posted last February:
It does seem as if the company wants to build something that satisfies the fears of parents, teachers and administrators. They are targeting educational institutions and they probably realize that marketing the app simply as a ‘fun social network’ (like SnapChat or Vine) will not likely give them the credentials necessary to get the buy-in from adults. I am curious as to whether this becomes a popular social network for Canadian students if and when it is available here (or if a similar network develops before them!)
- Personal reflections, regarding my own potential as an entrepreneur:
This app sparked my interest mainly because I know that my students are very active on social networks, particularly at my school (I work in an academically-focused school where all students attend University, and quite a few go to so-called “Ivy League” schools). I say this because I know (anecdotally, and I have seen it first-hand) that almost every course at my school (from Grade 8-12) has built a Facebook page for homework-sharing, pictures, etc. The downside of this is that some students (who either don’t have a Facebook account, do not wish to use it, are not permitted to use it, or are simply not invited by their classmates) are being excluded. If the safety and security measures are indeed as robust as advertised, and the app has been thoroughly inspected, I can see a venture like this being something that I could behind as an entrepreneur myself. The difficulty is creating something built to last – not just a ‘trend’ – so that students are engaged in a positive learning environment ‘after school’.