ZeeMee, a platform that wants to help students bring their college applications to life, told TechCrunch exclusively Thursday it had raised a Series A round of $5.8 million led by BlueRun Ventures.
Prospective college students today have been on social media for most of their adolescence. ZeeMee wants to help those students use the medium they know so well to showcase talents and interests that can’t be encompassed in a 150-word personal statement or test scores.
BlueRun Ventures has previously been an early investor in companies like PayPal and mapping service Waze. Jonathan Ebinger, a BlueRun Ventures general partner, told TechCrunch digital presence is increasingly important to college bound students.
“The existing online tools are not in sync with the needs and aspirations of the rising workforce,” Ebinger said. “ZeeMee is a fun and easy mobile platform for the 21st century where students show their best selves to the world through video.”
ZeeMee looks like a younger LinkedIn. As early as eighth grade, students can begin uploading photos, videos and text to ZeeMee that showcase their personal biography and activities. For example dancers can upload videos from their latest recitals, athletes can show off their best game footage and researchers can show off shots from their latest science fair.
For a generation that’s been on Instagram for as long as they’ve been riding the bus to school, ZeeMee founders Adam Metcalf and Juan Jaysingh say it’s only natural that they would want to include multimedia when they’re applying for college. They say colleges are also on board as they seek ways to take a holistic approach to the admissions process. ZeeMee has found that schools that don’t require applicants to submit test scores are particularly interested in the platform.
“Our mission is very simple — it’s helping students get seen,” Jaysingh said. “With this funding, now we can start hiring people and make this a big, robust platform.”
Jaysingh and Metcalf have known each other since they were roommates at American University. Metcalf has worked as a high school teacher, and Jaysingh has a consulting background. For Jaysingh, who came to the United States from India alone at the age of 14 for school, the mission of ZeeMee is deeply personal. He wants to make sure that every student, no matter where they grew up, has the opportunity to have a good education. He said ZeeMee gives all students an equal opportunity to showcase their work outside the classroom.
This fall will be the first admission cycle where ZeeMee will partner with colleges. Already Elon University in North Carolina, Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University in Texas have adopted the platform and included it in their application checklists for the Class of 2020. These schools offer a field for students to post their ZeeMee profiles on the Common Application.
ZeeMee plans to keep admission services free. As ZeeMee scales, it hopes the students who use the platform to apply to college will also stay on it throughout their college years. The company plans to provide career services and alumni services for a fee.
“We don’t just want to be an application,” Jaysingh said. “We want to be a serious place where kids can showcase their work and grow, and we want to grow with them.”
ZeeMee began exploring partnerships with colleges in early 2015. The founders have primarily done so by attending conferences for college admissions counselors. Because the company is competing with many education companies who have been in the college application space much longer, the founders have resorted to unique tactics to draw attention to ZeeMee. They’ve grown their name recognition in the college admissions world by wearing orange spandex suits to conferences and kicking off morning presentations with crazy dance parties. This week they brought a school bus inside the conference they’re attending.
ZeeMee has also gotten direct feedback from high school students by hiring them as interns.
Earlier this week, 80 colleges — including every Ivy League university, Stanford and leading public institutions — announced they would be introducing a new digital admissions platform. ZeeMee believes this announcement shows their plan is working, and the founders are optimistic they could be a resource for these schools as the coalition did not yet announce a platform partner.
ZeeMee will be launching a mobile application in the coming weeks.