Blacksburg Startup UIU Link Off to a Great Start

By Z. Kelly Queijo

At a
time when only 5% of technology of startups are founded
by women
,
finding three women entrepreneurs all from the world of higher-ed having lunch
together at a café in Blacksburg could be considered one of those “once
in a blue moon

kind of events.

Kim Griffo, founder of UIU LinkYet, a
little over two years ago, Jim Flowers, director of VT KnowledgeWorks, a
business accelerator located at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center,
saw fit to bring together three female entrepreneurs who shared a common
passion for business, higher education and technology.

The
women included: Christina McIntyre, founder of BecomeAlum, an academic planning tool for
college students; Kim Griffo, founder of UIU
Link
, a
directory resource to help students find open seats in online college courses;
and myself. 

The
energy in the room was electric as we brainstormed and shared insights about
startup life. Each one of our companies represented a different focal point for students on
the path to becoming college graduates. 

Fast-forward
to the present: Kim launched UIU Link in Blacksburg in May of 2013 and received
mention of her company in the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch two months later. And, it’s no
wonder – UIU Link has already made an impressive start with 10 universities signed
up representing 500 courses and 12,500 available seats.

Kim says
she is anticipating rapid growth as more colleges and universities are made
aware of UIU Link. “The response from provosts and faculty, as well as the
students is very positive. We have the traction, momentum, and are feeling the
surge from our university partners.”

Not to
be confused with the free, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) movement or  Coursera, another open directory of free
university-level courses, UIU Link is all about helping colleges fill “seats”
in paid online college courses while also helping students find the courses
they need to complete graduation requirements on time. Kim likens MOOCs to TV channels
where you can surf through a lot of options without having to commit to receive
the content. While MOOCs are free to users (students), the courses available
through UIU Link are not.

Kim
explains: “It is my understanding MOOCs are very expensive for the universities
to produce and there now seems to be a lot of confusion within the higher
education vertical. At UIU Link, we are about outcomes for the student and the
university partner. If it does not benefit the student and the university
positively, including credit transfer for the students and increased enrollment
and revenues for the universities, UIU Link would not ask an institution,
especially those that are state supported, publically funded institutions, to
give subsidized intellectual capital away for free off the backs of
students, parents and taxpayers.”

Whether
or not the number of MOOCs increases or not, the need to fill seats in the
classroom, online or on-site, won’t be going away any time soon. Nor will the
opportunities to for us to help one another in business. It’s safe to say that when
Christina, Kim and I get together for a post-launch review, we’ll have even
more to discuss as we explore ways to connect, collaborate and grow our ed-tech
companies.

Z. Kelly Queijo is founder of Smart College Visit, a college-search and campus visit planning portal for college-bound teens and their parents. Smart College Visit is an affiliate partner of UIU Link.

Smart College Visit and VT KnowledgeWorks are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0. 

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