Chief Executive Officer
Craig Powell became immersed in higher education as a consumer of it. While an undergrad at Brown University he founded IvyTutors, which was acquired by a local Providence company just about graduation time. He has a remarkably clear vision of present-day higher education. We're also interested in how he views the future.
What was your first job after you graduated from Brown and sold your business?
I worked at Nautic Partners, a $3 billion-plus private equity firm based in Providence, Rhode Island. Interestingly, while at Nautic, I was also enjoying a paid one-year 'deferment' from CreditSuisseFirstBoston. After a year there I founded ConnectEDU in 2002, with $600,000 in capital from eight investors. ConnectEDU has always been focused on helping students manage their education and career transitions. In 2002 we initially worked with Fortune 1000 companies to help their employees complete undergraduate or accelerated graduate degrees by managing their tuition reimbursement programs.
What did you learn about the buyer/seller interface where employers and colleges meet?
Serving large numbers of students is essential in order to maximize value to colleges and employers. For example, if I represented 1,000 first-generation immigrant bank tellers, I could persuade a college to create a custom program that benefited all three parties, the student, the employer and the college.
What byproduct of that discontinued business proved valuable?
Two things. We became adept at gathering, normalizing and using data. We also built a snappy technology platform that enabled us to customize education and career transition plans. Those two capabilities are cornerstones of our K-12 and postsecondary offerings.
Describe how and where you're using those cornerstones to smooth the high-school-to-college transition.
Michigan State University uses our solutions to receive tens of thousands of electronic high school records for their freshman applicants. Yale uses our solutions to identify talented urban high-schoolers with academic strengths who might not otherwise apply to Yale. Large school districts and colleges use our platform's retention and 'early warning' capabilities. Employers, such as Deloitte, use our platform to identify and recruit new hires.
How many current high schools, high school students and colleges are active and in your database?
There are 2 million student users representing 2,200 high schools with access to more than 4,000 colleges and with direct data integration to 325 colleges.
Differentiate between social networking and purpose networking.
Social networking is the act of engaging an environment (physical or virtual) for the benefit of social interaction, or organizing. Purpose networking is the act of engaging an environment for the benefit of purposeful interaction, or organizing. An example would be socially networking for the purpose of throwing a Halloween party, while purposeful networking might be for purpose of finding a summer internship. ConnectEDU is building the nation’s first purpose network.
Give an example of purpose networking that a Today's Campus reader with or without social networking experience is likely to understand.
A purposeful networking action might be a college admission officer participating in a purpose network with the goal of deploying five full-ride scholarships to Louisiana students who are cellists and earned an A in Algebra II. In a purpose network, students present profiles and information about themselves with the goal of advancing a purposeful action, in this case, their educations. As opposed to a social network where these same students might be more inclined to post profiles of themselves designed to advance their peer, social interactions. Due to the purpose network, the admissions officer is able to find the appropriate information and her candidates–perhaps fifty. Within this network the admissions director can begin and continue a meaningful discussion with each of these candidates and they can in turn engage her.
In your opinion, is Facebook an infant, an adolescent or a mature technology?
It's an infant approaching adolescence. An adolescent Facebook will begin to stake its claim to being the premier destination for personal communication. For example, you may be spending much less time in your personal email inbox.
What will be Facebook's lifespan, in your opinion?
Like the internet itself, Facebook is here to stay. Of course, that assumes the company and its user relationships are properly managed.
Does Facebook have serious competition from anyone or anywhere else?
Facebook's acceptance is global. And yes, they have competition, as do all quality leaders. mySpace is a competitor. Google is a potential competitor. As Facebook matures they will spawn additional competitors, but they themselves will become an even stronger competitor.
Do students want colleges or employers to communicate with them within Facebook?
No, certainly not within a friends' network. There is the potential for certain apps to enable such communication within Facebook, but not as 'traditional Facebooking.'
Facebook is designed for me to manage my social interactions. Employers, college administrators, and teachers, while likeable, are not within my social circle. Thus, I am not likely to grant them access.
What's a savvy college to do?
Pursue purposeful media, rather than social media. For example, establish a recruiting network, rather than a social network. Always be transparent about your purpose. If you feel you need a presence on Facebook, advertise there. Or create clearly defined Facebook groups.
Will academic interaction take place within Facebook?
I believe add-on applications will become available to faciliate academic communication. I don't think teachers will successfully recruit students into a network of Facebook friends for any useful purpose.
Do you see a killer app for college admissions on the horizon?
Yes. Its purpose is to find you a student, then transfer accurate reliable data to you about him or her. It's called ConnectEDU.