Did you know that 90% of alumni would prefer to hire a fellow alum, yet it happens less than four percent of the time? Sure, there are networking platforms out there where you can search out fellow alums who could help you with your job search or whatever, but that’s essentially the equivalent of a digital cold call, and we know how effective cold calling is.
Alumnifire intends to increase that statistic by tapping into the underutilized value of alumni communities. Members volunteer their time to help fellow alum with job advice, mentoring, and even directly hiring them for their own businesses.
And it’s not just about schools and university. Alumnifire embracesalumni communities of any kind – schools, universities, groups or organizations–to delivering real value to members – because it shouldn’t just be about asking them for an annual fundraising check.
Cofounders Andrew Margie and Trip Tate, who are both former Patch.com executives and coworkers, certainly know of what they speak. CEO Margietell us more about their platform and the power of alumni networks.
Tell us about the service.
Alumnifire is the first digital alumni-powered networking platform that engages members to open doors and opportunities for one another in the real world and on their own terms. Alumnifire activates alumni networks of any kind, from big universities to small affinity groups, by tapping into their powerful yet often underutilized value to provide members with a mutually beneficial experience.
How is it different?
Not just schools: Alumnifire plays a key role in broadening the definition of alumni networks by allowing alumni from schools & educational programs, organizations, trade groups, and other affinity groups to approach alumni relations in a way that works for them.
Beyond fundraising: Alumni are willing to give something far more valuable than money – their time. Alumnifire lets members access the practical value of their networks. Every member of Alumnifire is someone that wants to help you, whether that’s with a job lead, an internship, a professional introduction, advice, or mentorship.
Alumni have complete control over how they want to volunteer their time and what exactly they’re willing to help with, to how often they’re willing to do it.
Every Alumnifire site is exclusive to one’s alumni network and is powered by its members, as opposed to a traditional campus gatekeeper.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
There are two big opportunities created by unlocking alumni networks. The first is helping managers of these networks with tools, data, and analytics that can help them increase the value of the network. Administrative software for these kinds of organizations is a $7BN market. The second is more efficiently connecting talented alums and students with the right companies through their alumni connections. Talent acquisition in the U.S. is a $100+BN market, and few people are better suited to be a company’s recruiting ambassadors than alums motivated to hire fellow alumni.
What is the business model?
Alumnifire is free for members, schools and affinity groups to use, but there is an annual license fee for schools and affinity organizations that are interested in partnering for enhanced services and customization. By partnering, Alumnifire can give schools and other institutions a deeper understanding of what their alumni networks look like in the real world, where the jobs are and why, and give them tools to connect with alums willing to help drive on-campus outcomes. We also think alums are an organization’s best ambassadors and are building tools to help those organizations leverage their employees to find talent through their alumni networks.
Alumnifire’s core focus is delivering value to the networks and making sure the marketplace is running smoothly so that users have the best possible experience. We already have paying customers as part of private beta and will continue to expand the paid, enhanced services that we offer schools and affinity groups.
We know that you’re just launching, but according to your research, which colleges have the most active alumni groups?
When people think of active alumni networks, they generally think of better-known marketplace brands, like the Ivy League and other similarly well-known communities. We’ve found that every alumni network has incredible value that can be unlocked, if given the right tools. We’ve seen this in our private beta with communities ranging from our partner communities like University of Denver, Vassar College, and Connecticut College, to our alumni-launched ones at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Sweet Briar College, Loyola University Maryland, and others. Each is driving significant value back into their network using the platform.
Have you ever hired a fellow alum?
I’ve hired several alums from my college and grad school and I’ve also been hired twice by a fellow alum, including by AOL’s Tim Armstrong. I’ve never regretted an alumni hire. We’ve surveyed alumni and 9 out of 10 would prefer to hire a fellow alum or student, if given the choice among equally qualified candidates. Hiring fellow alums makes sense; it’s a network you trust and hiring from the network drives more value back into it. The trouble is that this happens less than 4% of the time. That’s why we created Alumnifire.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
In the next six months and beyond, we’d like to expand Alumnifire beyond schools. We have an opportunity to make Alumnifire the leading platform for alumni to connect and engage with each other, not just at universities and higher-education institutions, but for alumni communities everywhere.
We’d also like to help networks drive more value from their connections by strengthening engagement among alumni communities and serving network needs beyond a one-to-one value exchange. There are lots of ways members of affinity groups can help each other, and we’ll be exploring ways to help them do so.
Additionally, we want to strengthen alumni communities in light of the economic challenges facing higher education. Where smaller schools are closing their doors, we can help facilitate their alumni network by fostering growth and maintaining the value of their degrees even if the school itself is gone.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to focus on building the platform we’ve created to offer an even better user experience and expand into even more alumni communities.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community, who would it be and why?
John Frankel at ffVC. In addition to having a great reputation, his firm has a number of investments in similar products and markets. I think he’d really understand the opportunity and bring a lot of value to the table.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York gives us access to alumni communities all along the East Coast and excellent exposure to non-educational organizations that are looking to unlock their alumni networks, especially private companies and nonprofits in the city.
I grew up in the New York area and have worked here my whole career. While there are many advantages to starting a company in Silicon Valley, our scene gets stronger by the day and reflects our city: diverse, intense, and gritty.
Which is your favorite NY area beach?
A mix of Brighton Beach and Coney Island. Catching a Brooklyn Cyclones day game then walking up to Brighton Beach and sitting at Tatiana Restaurant should be on everyone’s NYC bucket list.