However, juicycampus creator and Duke graduate Matt Ivester, who launched the site in August of 2007, claims the site simply encourages free speech and offers an outlet for the kind of talk that would ordinarily occur on campus. Whether morally just or not, Ivester has tapped into a uniquely profitable market. In fact, the site has become so successful that this month, juicycampus.com will go from covering 63 campuses to a whopping 500 due to an overwhelming demand. In a rare interview, Ivester filled us in on all the juicy details behind
JuicyCampus.com creator, Matt Ivester
What gave you the idea for juicycampus.com?
I was brainstorming about what I could do on the internet. I realized my core competencies were that I knew the college market really well because I was not that far off from school. I was very involved in Greek life [while attending Duke]. I guess I just started thinking, “Gosh, some of my favorite stories were in college. It would be fun to have a place to start sharing those stories.”
What was your initial business model?
I wish I could say that it was really planned out, but the truth is that when I started it the plan was “Hey, I can build this for pretty cheap, I’m going to launch it on seven campuses and see if anyone cares about it.” I was frankly overwhelmed by the tremendous demand for this kind of website and the success was almost immediate. Within a month of launching it, we were getting a hundred posts a day. Within two months, BusinessWeek picked up on a story from the Duke newspaper. From there, we decided to invest a bit more money and expand to the 63 campuses.
Your first job was working as an associate business consultant?
I graduated from Duke in May 2005 and double majored in economics and computer science. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and consulting is a great option coming out of school. We were working with just the top management companies. To be on a team with these industry leaders was just fascinating to me. I was very much doing it knowing that I am an entrepreneur but needing a bit of business experience before launching out on my own.
Was the site a side venture at first?
No, I took the leap and I left my job and didn’t know what I was going to do except I was determined to start my own website.
What is your feeling about those who criticize the site for spreading unnecessary gossip?
It has been criticized. I never expected the level of controversy that we’ve seen. We really did not anticipate that. I think there have been some healthy discussions, and this is one of things that is bound to happen as the internet is evolves.
Is it difficult to get advertisers, your main profit source, due to the racy content?
The college demographic is very popular with advertisers. But there are some advertisers that we recognize that we are never going to get. We are not going to go out and try to pitch Disney. If that was our business plan, I don’t think we would get any investors. There are tons and tons of advertisers who recognize what the website is. It is a gossip website. college students enjoy it and you have to advertise where the college students are.
The site reserves the right to remove posts. What would be the kind of post that would be removed?
We’re not in the business of censorship. We want to create a free, open forum where college students can discuss the topics that interest them most in the manner they deem appropriate. What we will do is if we’re notified that someone’s contact information has been posted such as an e-mail address or a phone number, we’ll delete that. If there is a rampant hate speech and it’s not saying anything, that’s not what juicycampus is all about, so we’ll delete that.
Are the posts closely monitored?
Nothing is prescreened before it goes up. Just because of the volume of the posts it is impossible to do that.
Now that you are expanding to 500 campuses nationwide, what’s the next step?
There are over 2,500 four-year institutions in the U.S. so we have a long road ahead of us before we are on all of them. Eventually, we would like to be on all of them.
By Jillian Gordon