calling all underclassmen

Facebook taps Houston college campus for new tool on its app

Facebook is piloting a new tool at one of Houston's universities. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Facebook launched as a social media platform solely for college students back in 2004. Since then, college students have gradually moved away from Mark Zuckerberg's baby in favor of platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Now, in a bid to once again attract college students, Facebook is returning to its roots with the introduction of a dedicated "college-only space" within the social media app. The social media giant is piloting Facebook Campus at 30 U.S. colleges and universities, including Houston's Rice University.

Harvard University, where Zuckerberg hatched Facebook, isn't among the pilot campuses. The only other Texas school in the pilot group is Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches.

"While Facebook's early days saw it targeting Ivy League schools, the company says these first Facebook Campus schools were selected for diversity's sake. That is, diversity of the student population, diversity of geography, and diversity of school specialties (like liberal arts). They also represent a mix of public and private schools," the TechCrunch news website reports.

Facebook says a student's profile in the Campus section will differ from a student's profile on the main Facebook site. To create a Campus profile, a student must provide their college email address and graduation year. A student has the option to add information like major, courses, and hometown.

"Your name, profile photo, cover photo, and hometown from your Facebook profile will be added to your Campus profile, but you can edit or remove your hometown from your Campus profile if you'd like," Facebook tells prospective users.

Once a Campus profile is set up, a user can explore groups and events specific to their school, and connect with classmates who share similar interests. Only people on the Campus platform can view content posted there.

Features of Facebook Campus include:

  • Campus-specific news feed where students can read updates about classmates, groups, and events. They also can establish study groups, plan virtual concerts, or seek advice.
  • Directory of classmates at each campus. "Like in the early days when Facebook was a college-only network, students can find classmates by class, major, year, and more," Facebook says.
  • Real-time chat rooms for dorms and campus groups.

"This year, students across the country are facing new challenges as some campuses shift to partial or full-time remote learning, so it's more important than ever to find a way to stay connected to college life," Facebook says in a post about Facebook Campus. "College is a time for making new friends, finding people who share similar interests and discovering new opportunities to connect — from clubs to study groups, sports, and more."

With the Campus feature, Facebook hopes to lure younger users back to the platform in a setting where their parents and grandparents can't spy on them.

In the fall of 2019, U.S. teens named Snapchat as their favorite social media app (44 percent), followed by Instagram (35 percent) and TikTok (4 percent), according to Statista. Just 3 percent of teens cited Facebook as their favorite social media app.

By comparison, 42 percent of teens rated Facebook as their favorite social media network in 2012, followed by Twitter (27 percent) and Instagram (12 percent). Snapchat and TikTok had not yet been created.

"Most of us have [Facebook], we just never use it," one teen told CNBC last year. "It's not our thing."

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Building Houston

 
 

Molecule has closed new funding in order to focus on the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

A Houston startup with a software-as-a-service platform for the energy transition has announced it closed a funding round with participation from a local venture capital.

Molecule closed its $12 million series A, and Houston-based Mercury Fund was among the company's investors. The company has a cloud-based energy trading and risk management solution for the energy industry and supports power, natural gas, crude/refined products, chemicals, agricultural commodities, softs, metals, cryptocurrencies, and more.

"We led the seed round of Molecule upon their formation and are excited to participate in their series A," says Blair Garrou, co-founder and managing director of Mercury, in a news release. "Molecule's success in the ETRM/CTRM industry, especially in relation to electricity and renewables, positions them as the company to beat for the energy transition in the 2020s."

The company will use its new funds to further build out its product as well as introduce offerings to manage renewables credits, according to the release.

"In 2020, we realized that electricity — the growth commodity of the 2020s — represented over half of Molecule's customer base, and we decided to double down," says Sameer Soleja, founder and CEO of Molecule, in the release. "We were also rated the No. 1 SaaS ETRM/CTRM vendor. With this fundraise, we have the fuel to become No. 1 SaaS platform for power and renewables, and then the market leader overall.

"Molecule is ready to power the energy transition," Soleja continues.

Molecule's last round of funding closed in November 2014. The $1.1 million seed round was supported by Mercury Fund and the Houston Angel Network.

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