But the founders of edtech startup, Conshohocken’s Navengage set out to try and make it at least an enjoyable experience for students. The app gathers university resources and activities into one accessible platform for students.
Andrew Strause, cofounder and CEO of Navengage, said around the time of his graduation from Penn State, he learned that one of his friends had actually had a hard time engaging with the school and finding community outside of classes. This friend’s experience inspired him to find a way to make it easier for students — especially first-year and first-generation college students — to engage with university life.
“Being a little bit more introverted, it’s hard to just walk into new organizations and make friends,” Strause told Technical.ly. “So I was really inspired by hearing his perseverance through that, but also trying to help other students that they didn’t have to go through the same kind of challenges. … I think that’s disproportionately working against underrepresented students and first-generation students in higher ed, especially.”
Strause and his cofounders, Colleen McBride and Dan Lordan — all Penn State grads — were previously developing an app focused on off-campus resources. They pivoted when they connected with their alma mater to work on one focused on on-campus resources. Navengage was born in April 2020, and the completed app launched this past fall. They count 15,000 student users so far, per Strause.
Users can tell the app what they’re interested in, and it connects them to “events, connections, study abroad, student organizations, research and careers — really all those different resources the student would want to find outside the classroom,” Strause said.
“We really just want to make sure that as many universities as possible have access to this technology so they can help their students.”Andrew Strause Navengage
Universities license use of the Navengage app. Each university partner gets its own custom version of the app with its own name and branding; for example, Penn State’s is called the Penn State Engagement App. To keep the app up to date with the most accurate information, Navengage relies on APIs and integrations with the other applications managed by the university partner.
Navengage’s team is currently made up of six people, most of whom are based in the Greater Philadelphia region. (The founders have local roots, too: Strause is originally from Reading, Chief Marketing Officer McBride hails from Bucks County, and CTO Lordan is from Delaware County.) The company is fundraising to grow further — $1.3 million raised so far, according to Strause — with the round led by student loans tech company Nelnet and further investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Penn State is Navengage’s first client, but the company is looking to work with other universities — and its leaders recently announced an integration partnership with Boca Raton, Florida-based edtech company Anthology to help with that. This partnership will allow universities that use Anthology’s student engagement platform, Engage, to get access to the platform through a mobile app.
“They [Anthology] work on a lot of different areas in higher ed, but they did not have a white-labeled mobile app, so it fit in really well there to work with them,” Strause said.
Overall, the company’s three cofounders are focused on reaching as many universities as possible to help students find belonging and community at their school.
“Whatever is best for serving that mission, whatever form that takes, we really just want to make sure that as many universities as possible have access to this technology so they can help their students,” the CEO said. Here’s to a great four years for everyone.