There are 6,000 Jewish students at University Park, but three Penn State seniors found it difficult to connect with them.
They think their idea is the solution and that it’s now a matter of getting investors to buy into its potential.
Seniors Allison Konners, Hunter Most and Hannah Goldberg want to develop WhoJewKnow, a social media app for Jewish students to connect with each other and with Jewish organizations on college campuses.
Their vision for the app will feature four tabs: a calendar that tracks Jewish and community events; a trading post similar to Craigslist for a virtual marketplace; a travel feature for ride shares and birthright trips; and a Jewish geography section, which would visually illustrate how users are connected to each other.
The app, they said, will act like a hub of opportunities for Jewish college students.
The challenge they face is raising the money to develop it for a fall 2015 launch at Penn State and to expand it to college campuses across the country. Their goal is to raise $100,000 by February.
“There’s no social media app for college Jewish students, so why not use smartphones as vehicles or the middle ground to connect students?” Konners said. “A year ago and until a month ago this was just an idea on paper.”
That changed when they learned about a “Shark Tank”-style competition facilitated by Aish HaTorah, a worldwide apolitical network of Jewish educational centers in Stamford, Conn. They earned $30,000 for their presentation at the competition in November.
“The big problem has always been, ‘How do we make this happen?’ ” Goldberg said. “We needed resources and monetary support, and once we got some funding we were really encouraged that we could make it happen.”
They also have to expand their team.
“We’re looking for an app developer, a graphic designer, a marketing person, a university relations person, and we’ll be finding those people in the next two months hopefully,” Konners said.
The students brainstormed WhoJewKnow around the same time that they founded Aish Penn State in August 2013, an organization for Jewish Penn State students, which has grown from three to 300 members in 16 months. The organization provides updates on facebook.com/aishpennstate.
“This app makes it easier for Jewish college students to find these organizations to be a part of them and that way involvement in those organizations grows exponentially,” Most said.
They also want to expand the app to other universities in 2016, because they’ve drawn interest from Jewish college students as far away as California and Florida.
“Hopefully, it would kind of market itself like Twitter or Facebook, because they grew because of word of mouth,” Konners said. “Hopefully, people will start to talk about it with friends and it reaches everyone that would want to use this.”