Islands wants to take over colleges in the U.S. by connecting like-minded students through events and activities, and today the startup announced the close of its $1.85 million seed round. A string of notable investors participated, including Greylock Partners, entrepreneur Scott Belsky, and Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video Ventures. Several other firms and angel investors also joined.
Founded in 2016, the San Francisco-based startup launched out of stealth today to offer users different channels, or “islands,” through which they can organize a game of volleyball, share class notes, or simply create a support group.
When asked how these channels differ from Slack, Islands founder and CEO Greg Isenberg told VentureBeat, “If you ask any college student, they don’t know what Slack is. It really isn’t designed for communities, it’s more of a workflow tool.”
According to the young chief executive, college students respond to socially driven apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Microsoft’s GroupMe, which is Island’s direct competitor. But Isenberg claims Islands is different in that it is designed to help you interact with people you don’t already know.
Users download the app on iOS or Android and sync it with their social media accounts to verify their identity and college location. The app has a built-in geofence that connects users within five miles of campus.
So far, Islands is live on five campuses, including University of Alabama, University of Florida, and University of Western Ontario. Isenberg says Islands will be launching in additional universities over the next few months. “We’ve got thousands of people who have requested to join the app, but we are doing a very targeted rollout similar to Facebook back in the day,” he said.
Until the startup automates security issues through AI, it has moderators who make sure everything goes smoothly.
Islands hasn’t rolled out a monetization plan yet, but its seed boost should give it ample time to figure out that aspect. In the meantime, the startup will use the new funds to further develop the product and hire more engineers to grow its team of nine.