2023 Most Disruptive Business School Startups: MeetYourClass, University of Michigan (Ross)


University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Industry: Higher Education, Social Networks

Founding Student Name(s): Jonah Liss, Blake Mischley, Kaleb Schmottlach, Jon Millar

Brief Description of Solution: MeetYourClass helps colleges form community by revolutionizing the way students meet and find resources. By launching a “social media ecosystem” at a given college, MeetYourClass becomes the most efficient way for students to find roommates, friends, and opportunities on campus.

Funding Dollars: $120,000 (Techstars)

What led you to launch this venture? In our first year at the University of Michigan, Blake and I cycled through seven business ideas before focusing our energy on one venture: bringing a “caffeinated water” beverage to market. To validate our idea and eventually market our product, we needed an audience – as such, we started running Instagram communities for incoming students at the University of Michigan and the University of South Florida.

Seeing bad actors and inefficient management practices across the space (plus being motivated to expand our reach), we devised a better way to run social media communities for incoming students. Wanting to strengthen the communities we built, we began expanding our team and continuously built tools requested by students. Over time, following student demand the entire way, these simple Instagram communities evolved into what is now MeetYourClass.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with the venture? The MeetYourClass platform was used by 190,000+ incoming college students across 160+ colleges within 1 year of launching, achieving a 99.61% satisfaction rate.

How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? In a start-up, there is limited structure, and certainly no step-by-step playbook. Our team could not fully learn how to launch MeetYourClass in a classroom – too many steps of our “playbook” were hyperspecific to MeetYourClass and would not be relevant to most students. Nevertheless, going through the Ross BBA program, I was equipped with almost all the tools I needed to navigate a situation as ambiguous as launching a start-up. In a sense, I learned how to effectively learn.

Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Although I only started taking it this semester, I have found my BL 300: Business Law and Ethics class taught by Lori Rogala to be the most valuable business class in building our start-up. With topics ranging from Entity Formation and Securities Regulation to Agency and Product Liability, I have found the curriculum to be remarkably relevant to my experience as a co-founder. More importantly though, through Lori’s teaching style and the BL 300 curriculum, I have gotten a strong grasp on the why behind certain legal processes. By understanding the why, I feel more confident in our team’s ability to operate MeetYourClass in a sustainable, ethical way that is optimal for all our stakeholders.

What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Although I never took a class with her, ZLI Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Ross Lecturer Rashmi Menon made the most significant contributions to my plans and the trajectory of MeetYourClass.

Every Wednesday throughout the past summer, we spent an hour with Rashmi improving our user interface and overall experience. Rashmi helped our team dissect every part of our product’s flow, and our platform was completely unrecognizable by the end of the summer. Beyond low-level UI/UX practices, Rashmi taught me the importance of First Principles Thinking and determining how each tweak to our platform would advance our high-level business objectives. I have been able to apply the same thought process Rashmi taught our team to every aspect of the business.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Although it was not the start of my entrepreneurial journey, reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One was my most pivotal inspiration. Thiel articulates that groundbreaking start-ups do not simply duplicate existing models, they dare to be different, embody contrarian thinking, and ultimately change the world. There is inherently less market validation and certainly less of a playbook, but I am proud that our team struggles to respond when asked who are our immediate competitors. We meticulously study related ventures and always try to learn from the past, but at the end of the day, we are building MeetYourClass and nothing else.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our long-term goal is to work directly with the majority of U.S. universities to increase graduation rates and student satisfaction from acceptance onwards.

Not even accounting for summer melt, retention issues cost universities over $27 billion for each incoming class. We believe the most actionable way to maintain enrollment is by increasing connectivity amongst students and resources, ultimately fostering stronger communities on campus.

To achieve greater connectivity in an authentic, Gen-Z-friendly way though, it is paramount that universities meet students where they already are (the digital platforms they use on a daily basis). Students start forming online communities, building their friend groups, and establishing foundational views on their colleges long before stepping foot on campus. As the go-to solution for students to find roommates, friends, and opportunities from the moment of acceptance, MeetYourClass is uniquely positioned to bridge this misalignment.

Underpinned by these objectives, MeetYourClass has already established a pilot program with Midland University in Fremont, NE, and is working on launching additional pilot programs for the upcoming admissions cycle.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? MeetYourClass is the product of the Ann Arbor and Detroit startup ecosystems.

Through Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, MeetYourClass received grant money (from SPARK Ann Arbor, the Zell Lurie Institute, and UpRound Ventures), product development (through the Zell Lab for Technologies), and legal guidance (from Michigan Law’s Zell Entrepreneurship Clinic).

MeetYourClass further went through the Techstars Detroit Powered by J.P. Morgan accelerator, receiving capital investment and endless guidance/connections.

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