The next Mark Zuckerberg?
Towson senior creates goal-based social networking site
Social networking as we know it took off when Mark Zuckerberg sat in his Harvard dorm room writing countless lines of code and mapping out the layers of Facebook.
That scene isn’t too far off from the last 10 months of current Towson senior Steven Weinstein’s life. Weinstein has spent nearly all of his life savings building a new social networking website called Before I Graduate College. Before I Graduate College is a goal-based network that promotes social interaction, meeting up, and helping others cross off their goals before they graduate.
“I had always been interested in trying to figure out that million dollar idea,” Weinstein said.
Last April, the computer science major was sitting in a networking class and talking with one of his best friends. He said she was explaining what was on her “bucket list,” so he began to think of his own. He said he realized all of his goals could be in two distinct categories. One was for lifelong goals, like having a successful job and marrying the love of his life.
“The other was everything I wanted to do before I graduated college. So right there in class I bought the domain beforeigraduatecollege.com. Interesting class, but I wasn’t paying attention that day. And I’m glad.”
From that point on, the New Jersey native spent most of his time in his Rodgers Forge apartment in front of his computer, writing code and scheduling meetings with investors and Web designers. Originally, he took the idea to a close friend, Wesley Green from New Jersey, and another computer science major at Towson University, Joseph Furches. Furches was quick to react when he was first told of the idea.
“It was obvious to me that beforeigraduatecollege.com was a site idea that could really take off and flourish,” he said in an e-mail. “I wanted in so I could be a part of the effort to help people reach their dreams.”
The three quickly found that the greater their imaginations grew the greater and more difficult their project was to complete. So Weinstein contracted Baltimore-based company Emagine Web Consulting to complete the design, development and functionality of the site. In addition, Weinstein sought legal counsel, first hiring an attorney and later forming Before I Graduate College into a Limited Liability Company.
Weinstein had an internship in Manhattan with Deutsche Bank Americas, where he met the attorney who now represents the site.
“He said, ‘If you have such a great idea, I don’t even want to hear it because you don’t know who’s overhearing it,’” Weinstein said. “We went to grab a cup of coffee and I told my idea and he said, ‘I just have one question. Can I be your legal council?’”
Weinstein has spent roughly $30,000 on the site, both out of pocket and with help from friends and supporters. Furches said the site’s launch has been hurried significantly so they could get it up and running before getting too deep in their semester course load at TU.
“We would encourage everyone who uses the site to be patient as we try to get out of the ‘growing pains’ phase,” he said.
The site keeps track of your crossed-off goals and allows you to keep a log of what your goals are and who has provided feedback. Users must register either through name and e-mail or through a process called Facebook Connect that allows you to use your Facebook account to be a part of the site.
Getting the site to this point has been somewhat of a roller coaster in terms of time spent on the project, according to Weinstein.
“I honestly couldn’t even tell you how many hours I’ve put into this. I think about this all the time,” he said. “There were times when I was sitting at my desk in Manhattan and I had a little down time and I would just be thinking about this, taking notes on this, just brainstorming everything.”
Weinstein’s mother, Laurie, said she’s been in her son’s corner since first hearing about the project and has been with him through the ups and downs.
“He’s been very motivated to get this going, gotten frustrated when he had no control over how long it was taking, and very excited when he was able to see the progress made,” she said in an e-mail.
Ideally, Steven Weinstein would like the site to reach one million members.
“I want to be remembered as the person who launched this website with the help of people around me and was able to help lots of people do what they want to do,” he said.
By day one of the site’s launch, Steven Weinstein had posted his own first goal – launching Before I Graduate College. He now has one fewer goal to accomplish on his list.