ELMHURST – Elmhurst residents Mike Scudder and Joe Roberto were seeking a new business venture when they concocted an idea that they feel turns the Internet on its head and solves a social issue.
Scudder, 24, and Roberto, 24, are the founders of BrowseU, a digital startup company that helps to pay for its users’ student loans by sharing ad revenue from its search engine.
The two are childhood friends. Both attended York High School and they now work as web developers at the same company. So it seemed natural for them to go into business together.
“[Scudder] and I actually go back a while, way back to when we were younger,” Roberto said. “And we actually started here and there, messing around with a bunch of different business ideas, and we have always stuck together as far as career.”
Scudder and Roberto initially considered sharing revenue by giving users cash, but they felt compelled to help users in another way, by paying off students loans.
“We both went to college, we both have student loans, so we started doing a little bit of research and found out that there are 2,700 more student loans every second,” Roberto said. “So there is a drastic need for something to correct what is going on in the industry.”
The search engine is easy to use. It works like Google, Yahoo or Bing. Users enter keywords and BrowseU produces results from the web.
To take advantage of the ad revenue sharing program, people have to register, and they are then placed in line, referred to as the queue. Each person is initially qualified for $500, but that amount can increase by participating in social media and referral activities. BrowseU pays the loan provider directly.
People receive the money for student loans when they reach the first spot in line. Once he or she receives the funds, each user is bumped up one spot in the queue.
“Anybody can use it. You don’t need an account to use the search engine,” Scudder said. “Signing up just puts you in line to be able to receive money. You don’t even need to have student loans to get in line. We allow anyone to sign up and they can donate their position to someone who meets our requirements [to receive funds].”
The revenue is made through ads placed on the search engine, the same way that Google or Facebook make money.
Because ad revenue is linked to page views, the more people use BrowseU, the quicker members will be paid. And since searching the web is common practice, Scudder and Roberto think they will have no problem building a self-supporting community that will replace their main search engine for BrowseU, thereby allowing more people to share the ad revenue.
“Everyone uses a search engine multiple times a day,” Roberto said.
“It’s something that is free,” Scudder said. “It’s almost like you don’t even know what you are doing, you are raising money without even realizing it.”
Businesses pay the same to place an ad in BrowseU as they would in other search engines, according to Roberto and Scudder, but a portion of the money would go to helping a student pay their debt.
Besides this philanthropic incentive, Scudder and Roberto want to create partnerships with local businesses that could directly sponsor BrowseU.
“The school can let their students know that they are doing something to help them with their student loans; they are not just charging them money to go there, but they are actually helping their students at the same time,” Scudder said. “That is the direction we are going with our ads.”
The company went live Oct. 26. After the first month BrowseU has about 600 registered users and 17,000 page views, a more positive response than what they were expecting. Scudder and Roberto have now set their sights on a BrowseU app.
“An app is being developed. It’s in the design phase right now,” Roberto said. “Once the design phase is done we will transfer it over to the developer, and then we will roll it out.”
Browse U stats for the first 30 days
17,000 Page Views
2,500 Unique Visitors
566 Page Views/Day
*All numbers are rounded except for page views per day and states covered.