Everyone has that one summer that totally changes their way of thinking. For Snoop founder, Andrew Cercena, it was an entrepreneurial camp the summer before his senior year at Tower Hill School.
“Once you have that entrepreneurial mindset, you start to ask yourself: What problems do I go through? Do other people experience these problems? And how can I help to solve this?”
For most high school students across the country, the problem that looms over their senior year is finding the right college. As Andrew navigated the tricky process, he wanted to talk to university students at the schools he was considering. But it didn’t stop there.
“Why can’t I do this from my house?” he asked himself.
An idea was born.
Meanwhile, Snoop co-founder, Nick Novoa, found himself in the middle of the same intimidating task. Being a first-generation college student, Nick didn’t have a team around him to give him experienced advice. Many tips he did find suggested reaching out and talking to students enrolled in his potential schools. There was only one problem: that’s a hard thing to do.
“It’s important to do but daunting,” he explains.
Andrew and Nick, who graduated from Manalapan High School, in New Jersey, met in an entrepreneurship class at the University of Delaware that would turn out to shape the next year of their lives. Emphasizing the benefits of teamwork, their professor told the class to find a partner.
“I saw this kid with a Game of Thrones ‘Winter is Coming’ sticker on his laptop after I had just binge-watched six seasons,” Andrew recalls, “so I went over and introduced myself.”
Nick and Andrew developed their concept – a platform that matches high school students with college students with similar interests – in their sophomore year, taking it to the next level this past summer as part of a UD Horn Entrepreneurship program.
The result of their summer together led to a more polished version of their startup: Snoop.
A high school student signs up on the website or reaches out via email. They provide their schools of interest and other useful information such as majors and activities of interest.
Snoop then makes connections with similar students at the universities of interest and sets up safe, monitored 30-minute video chats between the two parties. Each $35 session begins with a debrief introducing the two students.
The duo have spent considerable time developing a database of college students, the key to making their idea work. Reaching out to Independent Educational Consultants, essentially an association of high school guidance counselors, helped open doors at several colleges around the country.
“We emailed 20-30 college admissions reps in each state in the mid-Atlantic region and heard back from about 20% of them. They don’t mind experimenting with new technology that will help them and don’t want to be left behind. They’re also really passionate about helping their students,” said Nick.
They’re already working with more than 50 colleges and universities.
They have also used personal connections and mined LinkedIn to make other connections between high school and college students. So far they have only invested about $1,000 into their venture. Developing an app – the idea is in the works – will require more cash infusion.
Andrew says the personal information actual college students can provide can be valuable to kids who can’t visit colleges in person or are looking for a candid perspective. But, he emphasizes that it is not meant to replace college tours.
“It’s a complement, rather than a substitute,” said Andrew.
Nick agrees, saying that “tours tell students what a college has to offer [while Snoop shows] how students take advantage of that.”
Andrew and Nick want to allow high school students to have a better experience than they did. And it seems that other students around the country also need something more. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 37% of all college students will end up transferring schools at least once. The statistic is staggering, so Snoop aims to help.
“It’s very hard [for high school students] to do something that is inaccessible to them. So, by making the information more accessible, we are hoping that more students will be more inclined to talk to more college students,” Andrew explains.
They have already made over a dozen college connections.
“From the ones that we have done so far, all of the high school kids got a lot out of the conversation,” Nick notes, “and walked away with both a perspective and a connection.”
In the end, Andrew looks back and credits teamwork to Snoop’s success, saying that “having a teammate is one of the most important things in entrepreneurship.
The partnership now heads back to work to give every high school student a bigger team to take on the terrifying college process. And little by little, the task will become less daunting.