U-M’s Student-Led Social Venture Fund Invests in Mytonomy

4/22/13Follow @XconomyDET

The University of Michigan’s student-run Social Venture Fund announced last week that it has invested in Mytonomy, an ed tech startup based in Washington, D.C. NewSchools Venture Fund led the round and Kapor Capital also participated. The Social Venture Fund makes early-stage investments of up to $100,000 in innovative socially or environmentally responsible companies. This is the third investment the fund has made.

Vinay Bhargava, Mytonomy’s CEO and co-founder, is a software guy. His co-founder, Sean Burke, is a practicing school guidance counselor. Together, they created Mytonomy to be a platform that offers crowdsourced guidance counseling via short form videos about school and careers. Mytonomy has a special focus on first-generation American students and those interested in pursuing a career in science or technology.

Bhargava says Mytonomy wants to especially serve communities and school districts that lack resources. “Many communities have low socioeconomic capital—they don’t have the same networks upper middle class communities have,” he says. Bhargava and Burke envision Mytonomy functioning as a social network for those seeking advice and those who want to give advice. “When you need critical advice, we aspire to be there.”

Mytonomy currently has more than 2,600 videos on its site, most in English, some in Spanish, and many narrated by near peers, meaning college students or young professionals. Mytonomy has identified common questions, but users can also type their queries into a search bar. Bhargava says the site is careful to include a diverse set of advice-givers from companies like Google, Facebook, and Dell.

Bhargava worked for Google for seven years, and he brings a lot of what he learned there to Mytonomy. “Search is really good for a lot of things, but what about kids from disconnected communities who don’t know what they don’t know?” he points out. “Advisors on Mytonomy answer questions and talk about their own experiences. Watching videos is such an easy way to start thinking about your future. It’s such a great storytelling medium.”

Bhargava says Mytonomy purposely targets cities like Detroit, for instance, that are struggling with underfunded schools and poor performance. The company plans to make money by convincing wealthier school districts to pay to upgrade to a private, custom video library designed to answer the questions posed by incoming freshmen. Mytonomy is currently working with the Charlotte, NC, school district to establish a private video network.

Bhargava says his company is thrilled to have U-M investing in Mytonomy, since it would like to “go big” in the state of Michigan. In addition to the financial investment from the Social Venture Fund, Mytonomy will engage directly with the university to build capacity and test the efficacy of its platform.”We want to successfully change attitudes about going to college,” he adds.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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