Creating a social network for college kids might seem like a foolhardy pursuit given Facebook’s historic roots in that market. And Jonathan Lazarus says that his new upstart, a social networking site called CollegeBrain, won’t compete with the social networking powerhouse.
“We are very complementary with Facebook” said Lazarus, who retired from his vice president role at Microsoft in 1996. “I am not stupid enough to compete with Facebook.”
CollegeBrain just landed $600,000 in startup capital, adding to the $115,000 that Lazarus and co-founder Ron Craswell previously injected into the young company. Among the backers is Nat Goldhaber of Claremont Creek Ventures, an experienced Silicon Valley venture capitalist who Lazarus says he has known for about 20 years.
Lazarus tells GeekWire that they plan to cap the financing at the current levels, noting that he doesn’t want “to take any more money.” The project is “very low key,” with a test version of the site to debut in the next 90 days.
Asked how the company plans to differentiate from other social networking sites used by college kids, Lazarus says it is a matter of focus.
“(CollegeBrain) is a very broad look at everything from the campus to what classes and instructors are like,” Lazarus tells GeekWire. “It is allowing them to share their overall experiences, what surprised them, what they expected, what changed over their four years.”
That differs from Facebook, which he says is more of an “unstructured conversation” about a wide array of topics. CollegeBrain, on the other hand, offers a way for kids to learn what the school is like from other people and how it compares to their own experience.
Lazarus declined to say how the company plans to make money, but he did note that college tuitions are a significant expense for most families.
“There are a lot of passionate people spending a lot of money. You don’t have any kids in college yet, but it is a non trivial decision and expense,” he said. “And it is very complicated right now.”
Lazarus is a well known technology executive, having previously worked at Ziff Davis and ABC.
Craswell, meanwhile, is the former vice president of engineering at M:Metrics and a former engineering director at Google. He also previously worked under Lazarus at Kiha Software. In addition to Craswell and Lazarus, the company’s chief scientist is Mitch Eggers, who is working as an advisor to the company. Eggers is the chief scientist at GMI and previously worked at iSecuritas. [Editor's note: Post updated to reflect Eggers' postion at the company].
The company employs less than 10 people, and Lazarus says that’s where “we will stay for a long time.”