After meeting in Management 100 three years ago, a former and current Penn student received a million dollar investment to transform their start-up into real world success.
Former Wharton student Matt Geiger and Wharton senior Evan Rosenbaum co-founded Blend , a college-exclusive app that allows users to share photos and win gift cards based on a daily theme. Blend will expand to become more prominent in the app world due to a recent seed investment of $2.7 million from the global venture capital firm, New Enterprise Associates, or NEA .
In May 2013, Geiger left Penn after finishing his junior year to pursue the start-up with Blend’s co-founder and Geiger’s high school friend Akash Nigam . Blend strives to create a space exclusively for college students since Facebook’s users have expanded far beyond its initial college base, Geiger said.
“We wanted to build a social network where the students can relate in a targeted and cohesive way without it being diluted by parents, siblings and people from different demographics,” he added.
Blend operates on the model of “Share, Snap, Score” to benefit its users and partner brands alike. In response to daily themes such as Tailgate Saturday and Library Shenanigans, users can share photos to receive “snaps” - the Blend equivalent to Facebook “likes.” The accumulated “snaps” serve as virtual currency to “score” gift cards to college-focused brands that advertise on the Blend newsfeed.
Blend’s partners gain direct access to their targeted consumers by offering discounts-an attractive business alternative to paying for generic advertisements. As the app’s reach has extended to over 1,000 campuses, the co-founders uphold selective criteria for accepting companies. Blend sustains an online environment linked to the college lifestyle by promoting brands like Uber, EatStreet and Alex & Ani.
“It has to be trendy and relevant to the college student,” Geiger said.
Blend secured the $2.7 million seed investment less than a year after its conception. The team is starting to grasp the magnitude of the deal as they move their headquarters from a one-room office with a “dorm-room feel” to the hub of San Francisco’s hottest tech companies, Geiger said.
The investment will enable Blend to broaden its scope for the future. The acquired assets equip the team with resources to enhance the app in terms of publicity and concept development. Over the next few months, Blend plans to give out over a million dollars in gift cards and escalate its branding effort to include several videos and photo shoots.
The size of Blend’s team will drastically grow as the co-founders focus on finding the best developers to advance the app. In addition to its monetary support, NEA’s commitment boosts Blend’s potential for innovation.
“[Investors] can just sit down with you and give you great advice, product ideas and help with talent identification,” Geiger said. “So there’s a whole host of ways that [Venture Capitalists] help beyond the check.”