Student Start-Up Helps Syracuse U. Graduates With Their Personal Brands

Four students at Syracuse University have made a job out of helping graduating seniors there find one.

Syracuse University recently bought a six-month subscription for each of its 4,100 graduating seniors to Brand-Yourself, a Web site the students created to help customers manage their online presence.

The company was created by two Syracuse undergraduate students, a graduate student, and a recent graduate. They started the project about a year and a half ago and put the Web site up nine weeks ago. So far, they’ve raised $275,000 from private investors. About 150 new users sign up for the free trial on their Web site each week.

Mike Cahill, director of Syracuse’s career-services office, described the contract with Brand-Yourself as a “win-win” deal: The university could encourage student entrepreneurship and provide a valuable service to graduates at the same time.

“If you’re applying to 10 organizations, at least two or three of them will be engaged in some type of search for you on the Internet,” Mr. Cahill said.

The Web site helps users control what shows up in Google searches of their names, build personal Web sites, and learn about job openings in their fields. The “reputation feed” tells users when new content mentions them online and guides them in creating positive content about themselves. For instance, it provides a list of news articles related to a user’s field so users can read them, comment on them, or post them on Twitter. It shows readers “what you should be reading and writing about and sharing,” said Patrick Ambron, a 2009 Syracuse graduate and Brand-Yourself’s chief marketing officer. 

Bruce Kingma, associate provost for entreprenuership and innovation at Syracuse, struck the deal with Brand-Yourself with money from a Kauffman Foundation grant and the chancellor’s office.

“They gave me a good deal,” Mr. Kingma said. “They learned how to negotiate, too, in the course of this.”

People not from Syracuse who want to use the site can start with a free one-week trial. Though the prices are still being tweaked, for now, the basic package runs at $9.99 per month, and the upgrade is an additional one-time fee of $59.99. The upgrade includes all of the basic services and an hour of one-on-one consulting with a “career coach.” Mr. Ambron said that the four young entreprenuers don’t claim expertise in the area of career advice, so they outource that service.

They do, however, claim to be experts in what they do.

“People see what we’re saying is helpful; they don’t care how old we are,” Mr. Ambron said.


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