Not unlike Mark Zuckerberg a few years ago, a couple of British Oxford university students realised there had to be a better way to network online – but they took a rather different approach. After studying how their college’s clubs and societies worked – and running a few themselves – David Langer and Andy Young came up with GroupSpaces in 2007. Three years later they’ve expanded beyond university campuses to hit 500,000 group memberships and are now set to go international with the injection of $1.3m investment. The round comes from Index Ventures and leading angel investors including Dave McClure, Chris Sacca, Simon Levene, Meagan Marks, Ariel Poler and Quincy Smith of CODE Advisors.
This is the first investment announced from the new Index Seed Fund and as such Index partner, Mike Volpi, will take a board seat. Existing investors Stephen Bullock and Simon and Michael Blakey of Avonmore Developments also participated in the round. That line-up attests to the interest this startup is creating – it’s extremely rare for this many high-profile Silicon Valley angel investors to invest in a UK startup. The cash will be used to expand their engineering and marketing teams in both the UK and US.
GroupSpaces is super-simple online management and administration tool for real-world groups. In fact there’s an irony that while Zuckerberg (seen below in front of Langer) admittedly came up with Facebook, the Groups application on Facebook remains pretty poor for proper group management. Having used GroupSpaces myself I’ve found it highly functional, though it could probably use a new UI, which I dare say is in now the pipeline.
Having said that, the all-in-one set of tools works very well for sports clubs, hobby groups, associations and student societies. The integrated offering makes administration of groups easy, and is designed to be way more easy to use than a Yahoo! group for mailing list, member records in Excel and collecting payments through various clunky offline means.
GroupSpaces only requires group leaders to sign up, making it faster to adopt than, say, a Ning group. Group members can be imported from Excel and get emails, register for events and pay their membership dues, all without having to create a user account and password.
The site is free for groups with less than 250 members and for student groups of any size. Above 250 members, pricing starts at £5/month. The company generates revenue via a combination of premium accounts, targeted advertising and transaction commission from payments made through the site.