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Check out His Campus(es)

3/12/2009 --

Evan Steinberg, BBA '06, gets top marks from Facebook for his platform on campus life.

Evan Steinberg, BBA '06, describes his latest business venture, Check My Campus, as a "small, scrappy startup." But don't tell that to Facebook. The social networking site recently presented Check My Campus with a $25,000 development grant from its fbFund. Clearly there's potential in Steinberg's college search tool, tailored to high school kids weaned on social networking.

Steinberg created Check My Campus as a standalone Web alternative to college admissions guidebooks and marketing collateral. The goal was to present content -- videos, photos, and text -- created by students for students. No sugarcoating allowed.

"Three-hundred-page guidebooks, boring info. sessions on campus, and cheesy tour guides don't really give you the real scoop on what colleges are like from a student standpoint," says Steinberg. Check My Campus, on the other hand, does just that.

Steinberg (shown at left) revised his plan from a standalone website to a Facebook application platform after attending a conference for Facebook developers in New York City. The applications, built on Facebook Platform, provide a framework to interact with core Facebook features.

"The Web and social elements of the Web are becoming mainstream and important," Steinberg says. "It was great timing because I could easily evolve my business plan to work with Facebook rather than develop a standalone site."

The Check My Campus application also could be accessed by millions of high school and college students, already on Facebook, who could populate it with content. That peer-to-peer exchange would bring a critical element of integrity to the product, Steinberg says.

"With a regular website, you see a quote from Joe, but we don't know jack about Joe. Why should we trust him?" Steinberg says. "With Facebook, there's an immediate credibility."

Working with two computer developers, Steinberg's lack of technical training was no obstacle. While they did the programming, he busied himself by social networking his way across the country, collecting videos, stories, and photos from students at 25 college campuses.

He was able to soft-launch the Check My Campus Facebook application in mid-October 2008, populated with the several thousand unedited videos he collected himself. The application was an instant hit, and with a rating system in place, the most popular videos, photos, and reviews are showcased on the landing page (shown at right).

With the $25,000 in business development funds now in hand, Steinberg plans to expand the Check My Campus application to cover as many colleges and universities as possible. Part of the money will go to pay contract developers and some has been allocated for legal expenses. At some point, Steinberg hopes to be flush enough to move his world headquarters from his parents' Maryland home to a place of his own. That will come with time and traction, he says.

"I definitely would love to say that I've got the majority of kids on Facebook involved," Steinberg says. "I'd like to become the go-to college search resource."

Check My Campus isn't Steinberg's first foray into running a business. He tapped his entrepreneur's streak while still at Ross when he and some friends created a t-shirt line named the Real Retro. He describes the label as "intelligent fashion," which featured popular athletic-style jerseys emblazoned with the names of historical figures. Before long, Steinberg's classmates were sporting jerseys calling out Harriet Tubman and Isaac Newton.

The Real Retro used a Web-based model to sell its products in 35 states and eight countries. But when some of his partners opted for law school and other careers after graduation, Steinberg realized he couldn't keep the business afloat on his own. His entrepreneurial drive, however, could not be derailed.

"I definitely credit that experience -- learning how to write a business plan and pitch to investors -- with building the foundation for Check My Campus," Steinberg says.

While at Ross, Steinberg also scored internships at Nike, Wal-Mart, and American Eagle, which complemented his academic coursework. He also gives credit to the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, and its faculty, for taking business out of the classroom and bringing it to life.

"Ross prides itself on all the group projects and group-based learning," Steinberg says, "and that has translated really well for me."

That said, one has to wonder: Does he share that tip on Check My Campus?

—Leah Sipher-Mann

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu