This Startup Built an App That College Students Love
April 21, 2015

This Startup Built an App That College Students Love

by Brian de Haaff

He thought he was ready for venture capital and that they were ready for him. A founder since high school who had launched and sold a successful Spanish networking website, Juan Carlos Perez approached Silicon Valley investors with confidence last year. He and his co-founder, Jordan Knox, had an idea for a new productivity app aimed at college students.

In hindsight, they weren’t ready. Without a defined market and research to confirm their pitch, Perez and Knox could not convince investors that they had found a lovable product.

“While they seemed to like us as founders, they completely shot down the idea,” Perez recalls. “Instead of calling it quits, we doubled down and really began to dive deep into which problem we were trying to solve.”

Perez spent months talking with students at college campuses across America. During this time he was surprised to find so few mobile apps aimed specifically at college groups. He was especially intrigued by the students who managed to juggle extracurricular activities, a full load of coursework, along with a job or internship. There were endless demands on their time, yet Perez found they were using a variety of apps without any clear winner.

He started with one problem, group communication. He set out to learn which tools students were using to keep in touch — and to see if he could help.

One common thread was that groups had a difficult time communicating with one another, especially sororities, soccer teams, and language clubs. They were already using several ways to exchange information, from email threads to texting to Facebook groups. But there was one problem — the tools were built for general purpose communication. There was no tool built just for students that provided a branded experience and a centralized place for groups to collaborate.

“What would happen,” Perez wondered, “If we built an app that was targeted at colleges and could organize conversations based on specific topics?”

Now out of beta mode, Crux is a mobile messaging app for college groups. It allows a sport club to invite team members to join conversations on drills and nutrition, or a sorority to plan rush events and fundraisers. Since several students are involved in many activities, they can create unique groups within the app, each with its own set of specific threads. This allows users to keep track of updates from their teammates and study groups using just one tool.

“Crux was purpose-built for groups,” Perez explains. “[We offer] an organized and private space for groups to access their critical information and communications.”

Perez is confident that Crux solves a distinct need for an untapped market. Today’s college students face more demands than ever. By speaking with thousands of them within six months, Perez delivered what they told him would be most beneficial.

Crux is seeing early success and notable groups include the Cornell Business Review at 20 prestigious schools. Perez is happy that investors made him focus and he is thrilled that Crux has found success on college campuses.

In this series, companies share their unique approach to building lovable products. Read more of their stories here, and write your own using the hashtag #BigIdeas.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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