Spring 2013

Weisman decodes college culture



Weisman decodes college culture
Jonathan Cohen
Entrepreneur Michael Weisman '98 recently sold his business for $40 million.

When Michael Weisman ’98 returned to Binghamton last fall, he told students about a road trip he and his childhood friend Eric Reich took in 1999 to a Buffalo Bills football game in Washington. While Reich drove, Weisman filled a notepad with ideas for business ventures that could be entered into a competition sponsored by the University at Buffalo MBA program. Some of those scribbles turned into a first prize of $25,000 and, later, a $40 million business.

Weisman and Reich co-founded Student Voice, which subsequently became Campus Labs. The company works with colleges and universities — including Binghamton University — on student assessment projects. He says the business filled a need in the marketplace — the quick collection and reporting of data on college students. The concept was based on Reich’s summer internship at MTV, where it took six months to complete similar projects.

“Life was speeding up, and trends were speeding up,” says Weisman, who majored in anthropology at Binghamton. “If you didn’t have your finger on the pulse, you would be out of date.”

The pair started their company in Buffalo, their hometown. Weisman remembers lean times, when they made do with refurbished computers and old furniture. They drew no salary for the first two years.

“It’s one thing to draft a business plan in a vacuum,” he says. “It’s another to implement it. We quickly learned how challenging it was. It took 11 years of hard work, and it is entertaining to reflect on the experience and results.”

Their gamble paid off as the company obtained hundreds of clients in the ensuing years. Last summer, Connecticut-based Higher One Holdings acquired the company for $40 million. Weisman is still involved with Campus Labs as executive vice president and says this newfound wealth hasn’t changed anything.

“I haven’t had much time to think of another venture,” Weisman says. “I’ve been laser-focused on what I do now, and I have no interest in changing positions. This is what I know. This is what I love to do.”