The Foundation established by Bill, and his wife Melinda, Gates has stepped into backing a for-profit company. They’ve invested in a business named Inigral which has created a Facebook app for institutions of higher learning.
The start up’s goal is to keep potential drop-out students in school by engaging them from the time they are accepted for admission until they graduate. That goal will be helped along with a $2 million ingestion of money from the Gates Foundation, and matched by a combination of funds of $1 million each from Retro Venture Partners and the Founders Fund.
Rather than giving a grant to a non-profit organization, this is the first time the Gates Foundation has put money into a profit-making business. Inigral is seeking schools to apply for Pell Grants as a means of getting its Schools App software into those schools. The federal program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain post baccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education. Schools can obtain a PDF application form here.
It is not surprising Inigral’s software is built around the social media concept. CEO Michael Stanton has the same youthful approach and appearance as Zuckerberg of Facebook. The association of the two companies is evident by the first question on the application form: Describe your existing Facebook presence, its successes and its shortcomings.
A Gates spokesperson said: "Leveraging social media to facilitate a student's integration into academic and campus life is a promising approach toward improving college completion rates in the United States."
Inigral is part of Facebook's Preferred Developer Program, a select group of companies that Facebook endorses and counts on to make quality applications. Inigral is the only member involved in the higher education community.
Their app creates an invitation-only community for incoming students which keeps student information private, secure, and FERPA-compliant. The company is located in San Francisco, California near the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf.