Alumni looking to create 'buzz' with lifestyle app

Jeff Rice
July 01, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Andrew Strause lived with 10 roommates in a house on West College Avenue in State College during his senior year at Penn State. The idea was to save money, but when he and his housemates tallied up the rent total at the end of the year and compared it with others, they realized they hadn’t saved much.

“It opened up my eyes to the fact that a lot of students have a lot of the resources they need on campus,” said Strause, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in management information systems, “but off campus there’s really not one central place for them to get the right information and make good decisions.”

That was the inspiration for Beemia — an app founded by Strause and a group of other young Penn State alumni that's benefited from assistance provided by the Invent Penn State initiative and the University's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Beemia launched in March and is designed to help students in State College and elsewhere find housing, entertainment, food, events and, above all, a sense of community.

The company, which will hold a launch event at the Happy Valley LaunchBox on July 10, is beginning at Penn State, but has plans to expand to several campuses in and around Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Assembling the team

Strause, the chief executive officer of Beemia, and Dan Lordan were interns together in Penn State’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations in 2016. A year later, after Lordan had graduated with honors degrees in biology and political science, Strause asked if he would be interested in joining him in his startup, which was originally called LionPads. Lordan would eventually leave his full-time job with the Division of Development and Alumni Relations as a senior business analyst to become the chief operating officer of the next iteration of the business, FindItU.

Giancarlo Avendano, a Penn State student who had met Strause through the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, joined Beemia in 2017 to work on marketing and sales, and is now the company's chief financial officer. Colleen McBride, who had worked with Lordan in the Penn State chapter of Empower Orphans, joined last summer and is now the company’s chief marketing officer. Her best friend and fellow Schreyer Honors Scholar Nicole Kosuda started as a photography intern last fall and is now the chief content officer.

This past fall, McBride decided to rebrand the company. As Strause’s father is a beekeeper, the team felt a beehive metaphor made sense. FindItU became Beemia.

“We are bringing communities together to grow and thrive and connecting students with businesses, and everybody is playing their part,” said McBride.

Strause credits a number of local organizations with helping the business develop, chief among them the Invent Penn State initiative.

“I don’t know if we’re here without it,” he said.

Beemia also took part in the Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ TechCelerator program, which is supported by Invent Penn State, this spring, and has received assistance from the State College Small Business Development Center. The team worked out of Happy Valley LaunchBox offices for a year.

The platform has three main categories: Beemia Housing, which helps students find apartments and housing and list sublets; Beemia Lifestyle, which provides information about events and bands; and Beemia Buzz, a lifestyle blog with original student storytelling.

Beemia currently lists every bit of housing and event information for free. Both the app and the website are undergoing functionality and design constructions and will be updated this fall.

Building a community

The Beemia team wants to help all students — especially first-year students, first-generation students, international students, transfer students and those without a support system — plug into sections of the community they might not know about.

“The University has so many things that we can take advantage of,” Lordan said. “I was lucky that when I reached out to my networks, someone could point me in the right direction. We don’t think, collectively, that your access to information or opportunities should be limited by your network, or your ability to make connections."

“We wanted to make a place where everybody could find what they needed at the moment they needed it,” Lordan added.

Conversely, the team also wants students who are heavily involved in campus activities or know the tricks of college life to contribute to the app, so that the content is continually fresh and useful. Long term, the team hopes to create a point system that will reward users who have established credibility for helpful contributions.

“We’re going to be too old to get the point of what college students want in maybe five years,” Strause said. “It’s important for us to make sure we build this in a way that it’s the students’ platform and that the content is always relating to them. Not only that, but they feel an ownership that this is their community. We want it to be almost like how you relate to being in State College; it would be how you relate to being in this hive.”

Editors note: This story is informational in nature and should not be considered an endorsement of any product or application.

Last Updated July 16, 2019