County student, classmates to kick off all-in-one college app08/31/2021 11:20AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
In February of 2020, Devon native and former Conestoga High School student Chris Tsetsekos and his two Haverford School classmates Jon Krouse and David Graham were living in the temporary limbo known to many high school seniors.
It was the period between receiving a college acceptance letter and the fear of the unknown that would await them when they arrived at their respective college campuses in the fall.
The fact that a worldwide pandemic was forcing the three friends to remote learning only exacerbated the challenge they had in finding out more about the respective schools they were heading to: Graham to the Ohio State University, Krouse to Wake Forest University in North Carolina and Tsetsekos to Tufts University near Boston.
They all wanted to arrive on campus that fall having already hit the ground running – to have already established friendships before the start of the fall semester; to have already known what the social vibe on campus would be like; to have already established links and connections to school groups and student organizations; and most of all, to have already formed a network that was specifically tailored to their individual school.
They looked everywhere on social media, and found nothing. They would be far from alone; Tsetsekos, Krouse and Graham, now all 19, would be joining 19.7 million students who were about to enroll at U.S. post-secondary institutions, making them in raw numbers the equivalent of the ninth-largest city in the world – an entire population of individuals who had very little foresight as to what their immediate future would look like.
Lack of social platforms
Their initial research also included a survey that they sent to nearly 1,400 high school students whose responses revealed that when it comes to using technology to help make the transition from high school to college, 75 percent said that they do not have a method to connect with other future classmates students besides Facebook, and that 93 percent of them would not use Facebook to actively post.
“What the three of us recognized was that all of our fellow seniors lacked a social platform to connect with their future classmates and potential roommates,” Krouse said. “There is a lot of stress revolving around the college transition and it makes for an uncomfortable feeling when you get there. When we got to our respective colleges in the fall of 2020, we recognized that engaging in our communities did not get any easier. In the place of a solid form of communication, we saw bulletin boards plastered with outdated events, and student club tables scattered across the campus lawn.”
Working with a software developer during their last semester at Haverford, Tsetsekos, Krouse and Graham began designing an application that could change all of that.
It's called FuzeMee, the first all-in-one college app designed to help students find friends, roommates, and events on their campus. Completely free and scheduled to be introduced at Tufts in September – and subsequently phased in at other schools – FuzeMee is about to revolutionize college life for millions of students around the United States.
With a simple download from the App Store, college students from Chester County and everywhere in the U.S. will be able to meet new friends based on interests, location, gender and class year; find a roommate; create, discover and find campus events; promote their club or organization; and establish group chats of any size. Most importantly, each app will be tailored to a specific college or university, which will allow prospective students to shop around for their future college.
“Once a student is accepted to a college or university, he or she will be able to download the FuzeMee app, and then select the schools he or she has been accepted to or committed to,” Graham said. “Because we are creating micro-communities for every college, he or she will only be able to engage with students in those particular communities.”
FuzeMee is safe, too, through the use of the Amazon Web Services tool Rekognition, that provides constant scans for any objectionable or inappropriate content.
FuzeMee has already proven that it is earmarked for rapid expansion. In early February of this year, Tsetsekos, Krouse and Graham launched a beta version of their product at several universities, which registered that students were logging into the app approximately 14 times a day. In addition, they are working with as many as 5,000 high school and college student ambassadors across the country who are marketing the app on their own social media.
“These ambassadors are acting as speaker phones for our mission, and will promote FuzeMee to their friends on campus and in their hometowns,” Graham said. “By combining their total social media followers, we arrived at our digital reach of over 19 million students.”
$800K in initial funding
For Tsetsekos, Krouse and Graham, the success of FuzeMee's early outreach is not the only positive outcome of their efforts. In just over a year, they have raised over $800,000 in initial seed round investments from 20 angel investors, as well tapped a team of leaders and mentors from higher education, finance, entrepreneurship, private equity and tech to serve on their advisory board. With an early eye toward capital efficiency, the outlay of the funding will be spent on software development and the hiring of key staff.
“When we speak with potential investors, some of them look at our age as a disadvantage,” Krouse said. “However, we turn the conversation another way, in that because of our age, we know our market better than anyone else. While our competitors have to rely on market research to understand their target audience, we just need to ask ourselves or our friends what we would like in functionality or enhancements.”
In both principle and application, FuzeMee is not only a benefit to students, but has the capacity to serve as a hand-held promotional department for colleges and universities. While Tsetsekos, Krouse and Graham could see a collaboration in the future, their focus now is to introduce the app as a student-only device.
“We recognize all of the benefits that FuzeMee can create for colleges and universities such as improving retention and yield rates, but we really want to keep it peer to peer for now,” Graham said. “The fear we have is that if college administrations are on board, that the students' voices will become filtered, and we don't think that will create a genuine environment for the students.”
For Tsetsekos, an economics and finance major with an interest in entrepreneurship leadership, his collaboration with Graham and Krouse is viewed as a valuable first lesson in business.
“Starting FuzeMee has definitely taught me how important it is to work on something that I am truly passionate about, and how crucial it is to do so with people I care about,” he said. “Our goal with FuzeMee is to reach as many college students as possible. By using this capital, we will be able to accelerate our progress to reach more students and help make their college experience a great one - from start to finish.”
To learn more about FuzeMee, visit www.fuzemee.com.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].
PHOTO ABOVE: Devon native
and former Conestoga High School student Chris Tsetsekos, left, and
his two Haverford School classmates David Graham, center and Jon
Krouse, right, are the makers of FuzeMee, the first all-in-one
college app designed to help students find friends, roommates, and
events on their campus. The app is scheduled to be introduced at
Tufts University – where Tsetsekos attends -- in September – and
subsequently phased in at other colleges and universities.