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

 
 

Data Gumbo, founded and led by Andrew Bruce, has announced its latest funding. Photo courtesy of Data Gumbo

A Houston-based tech company has announced another round of funding to support its blockchain network growth as well as to establish a presence in the Middle East.

Data Gumbo has closed its series B funding round totaling $7.7 million with follow-on investments led by Equinor Ventures. The round includes participation from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures and Bay Area and Houston-based venture firm L37. The round's first close was announced in September 2020 at $4 million. The additional funds to close the Series B will be used to scale Data Gumbo to serve demand for GumboNet™ and GumboNet™ ESG. Additionally, Data Gumbo plans to establish a presence in the Middle East to cover expected demand growth in the region.

"The successful close of our series B is continued proof of the efficacy and booming interest in our ability to capture critical cost savings, deliver trust and provide transparency across commercial relationships," says Andrew Bruce, founder and CEO of Data Gumbo, in a news release. "Compounded by the growing demand for transparent, accurate sustainability data and the launch of our automated ESG measurement solution, GumboNet™ ESG, Data Gumbo's trajectory is well-positioned to serve our growing customer base by ensuring economic productivity and value. This infusion of capital will support our expansion efforts as we bring more international users to our network."

With this latest raise, Data Gumbo's total funding raised to date is $18.4 million.

"Data Gumbo's success is marked by a wide variety of business use cases and opportunities for expansion," says Bruce Niven, chief investment officer at Aramco Ventures, in the release. "Our continued investment is a testament to our continued support as the company attracts new customers, experiences further demand for its network and gains traction in new markets."

The company's technology features smart contract automation and execution, which reduces contract leakage, frees up working capital, enables real-time cash and financial management, and delivers provenance with unprecedented speed, accuracy, visibility and transparency, per the release.

"Data Gumbo is the market leader for smart contracts backed by blockchain, and the coming year will be a period of exponential growth for the company as they penetrate new industrial markets," says Kemal Farid, partner at L37, in the release. "We believe strongly that GumboNet will become the de facto network for smart contracts across industries for capturing value and solving enormous pain points in contractual relations. Additionally, as companies move to meet increasing sustainability measurement demands and ESG improvements, there is a huge growth path available for Data Gumbo with the launch of GumboNet ESG."

Earlier this year, the company announced its environmental, social and corporate governance tracking and reporting tool.

"Equinor's recent pilot at the Johan Sverdrup field has demonstrated that GumboNet can create strong value for the partnership," says Gareth Burns, head of Equinor Ventures, in the release. "Our follow-on investment confirms Equinor Ventures' confidence in Data Gumbo's solution for our company and the broader energy industry."

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