College is an exciting time and provides great opportunities that allow people to reinvent themselves, try new things, and connect with likeminded individuals. However, navigating campus life and taking advantage of everything campus has to offer is often overwhelming – remember passing hallways with layers of flyers affixed to the walls announcing events, etc.? Rah Rah is the community engagement platform that helps college students make sense of campus life and reduce information overload. Rah Rah’s mobile app empowers students by allowing them to discover and book campus activities and services, all in on centralized place. Students can do things like sign up for intramural activities, fitness classes, and even schedule appointments at the health center. The SaaS platform also provides a rundown of campus events in real-time and uses heat maps to reveals what events are highly populated. Rah Rah’s personalized, curated student feed allows students to discover relevant clubs and events based on their interests and passions.
AlleyWatch caught up with CEO and Cofounder Cooper Jones to learn more about Rah Rah, its focus on reducing information overload for the campus community, and the company’s recent funding round, which brings the total funding raised to $2.8M.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We received $2.8M in personal Seed funding from Workday cofounder and Chairman Dave Duffield and Workday Vice Chairman Phil Wilmington – both industry leaders and visionaries for cloud-based systems for higher education.
Rah Rah is a community engagement system provider created to simplify and improve campus engagement. Designed to make campuses more accessible, discoverable and connected, Rah Rah provides easy, one-stop access to critical campus resources, groups, and events that are relevant for the greater campus community
What inspired the start of Rah Rah?
Recognizing the information overload on college campuses and the importance of community in student’s success, my cofounder and I created Rah Rah in 2018 to be a campus wayfinder.
How is Rah Rah different?
Campus life is rapidly evolving, and students tell us there is information overload from the myriad of campus platforms and a lack of integration and relevancy. COVID-19 has taught us many lessons – one of which is how important community and relevancy is. Traditional student life software was designed for marketing or focused on one particular function like student organizations. Rah Rah provides easy, one-stop access to critical campus resources, groups, and events that are relevant for students, administrators, faculty, employees, and the campus community at large.
What market does Rah Rah target and how big is it?
Higher education tech, student life, and community engagement software. The total higher ed IT market spend is $6B annually with a large portion dedicated to learning management and student information systems. With our forecasted scope and scale, and the innovation and value that Rah Rah delivers, we plan to grow this annual market spend rather than work within it.
What’s your business model?
We operate on a traditional SaaS model and charge based on the university population. More importantly, though, over the past two years, we have focused on creating a new category with a solution that has lasting value. To support that effort, we developed a strong Design Partner program to bring universities to the table to test, critique, influence, and validate every aspect of our software as we want to be a true partner and extension of their team.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
In the short term, COVID-19 did impact our business as we made the decision to put a hold on sales outreach, listen and give the market time to deal with the safety of their students, faculty, and staff. Now, as higher ed has been able to bring their academic operations online, we are working with institutions to bridge the gap for their in-person, non-academic services, resources, and opportunities to innovate and invest in technology that can support holistic student life and community engagement services.
What was the funding process like?
In the early days of our entrepreneurial journey and today, the key is to listen. We went the route of seeking advice and networking before looking for funding. That approach, rather than going after money first, was beneficial as the funding came from organic sources, rooted in relationships we sought out in the earliest days.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
It is hard to create a new category and higher ed is known to be a market that can be resistant to innovation when it comes to technology. What we’ve found is that patience and a prudent approach help set us up for long term success.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Rah Rah is addressing an enormous gap for higher ed institutions that have been searching for a connected digital experience to better understand and manage student needs as well as cut information overwhelm – to ultimately drive student success.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We look forward to going live with our software at institutions nationwide and expanding our reach and partnerships.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Persistence is key. We were told many times that our ideas were too big or complex. Every time we listened to the feedback but did not let it derail our vision. Be willing to take advice and critiques and focus on continual improvement. Develop strong relationships with advisors and investors. Remain committed and be passionate to make business successful.
We were told many times that our ideas were too big or complex. Every time we listened to the feedback but did not let it derail our vision. Be willing to take advice and critiques and focus on continual improvement.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Executing. We have spent the last two years building, testing, and validating our technology and now it is time to deliver. We look forward to seeing our value come to life on campuses nationwide.
Where is your favorite summer destination in and around the city?
My building’s rooftop, “The rooftop” is unfinished and a bit underwhelming in aesthetic but I can take a lawn chair and my laptop up there and be at peace, work, and catch some sun. All the while comfortably social distancing in the fresh air.
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