Nonprofit company Harvard Student Agencies has scooped up a market research startup to be added to its portfolio of 15 student-led businesses: Campus Insights, a startup born out of Boston College that helps tech companies and development firms get feedback on their apps from college students. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“From the beginning at Campus Insights, we built it around being a student-run business,” Campus insights co-founder and outgoing CEO Riley Soward said. “So the long-term vision for our business was to ideally keep it student-run.”
“The long-term vision for our business was to ideally keep it student-run.”
The company had been in talks with HSA since January 2017, thanks to a casual meeting in line at a Whole Foods market. While the Campus Insights team was getting dinner, Soward ran into his friend Ben Pleat, a senior at Harvard at that time and CEO of local startup Doorbell.
“Ben introduced us right there as we were standing in line at the Whole Foods in Cambridge… over a Facebook message to his friend at HSA,” Soward said. “We started chatting from there.”
The deal was finalized in August 2017. Starting in the summer, the company has been working on a team restructuring plan to meet the acquisition’s requirements. As HSA only employs Harvard undergrads, co-founders Riley and Stephen Soward had to step down from their roles as, respectively, CEO and COO, but will stay on as advisors.
The new CEO will be James Swingos, a Harvard University sophomore who has been the company’s head of business development since June 2017. Swingos will report formally to Ali Dastjerdi, president of HSA.
“The thought of transitioning leadership to someone else at first was incredibly scary.”
Soward said that he and his brother knew the deal was going to happen, so they proactively started hiring. “Campus Insights is my co-founder and mine’s ‘baby’ and the thought of transitioning leadership to someone else at first was incredibly scary,” Riley, who co-founded the company as a Boston College undergrad in 2014, said. “But the moment we met James… we’ve gained complete confidence in the future of Campus Insights underneath him.”
Riley added that the moment he know that Swingos was perfect for the role was a month after he started at Campus Insights, when they walked out of a sales meeting.
“He looked at me and said: ‘Wait, why didn’t you say that?'”, Riley said. “I was like, ‘Wow… He now knows the same if not more than I do.'”