Student-created app gets new updates, funding

Due to funding and feedback from over 4,000 users, GreekLink, a social-event app created by USC students for the Greek community, has reached two more college campuses since its debut last semester and added more features.

Updates available · Noah Johnson, above, one of the founders of the GreekLink app, evaluated user responses to improve the app’s design. - Photo coutresy of Noah Johnson

Updates available · Noah Johnson, above, one of the founders of the GreekLink app, evaluated user responses to improve the app’s design. – Photo coutresy of Noah Johnson


Over the summer, the founders of the app, Noah Johnson, a junior majoring in business administration, and his friend Ari Gootnick, an advertising major from the University of Texas, Austin, looked at users’ responses to the app and created an updated design. Then, their developers brought the updates to life.

“The main parts of the update are the messaging feature, where individual fraternity or sorority members can communicate directly or where, say, a president can send out a message to the entire chapter, and the search feature, where you can click on a certain chapter and scroll through the list of members,” Johnson said.

While downloads have doubled since last semester, users still check the app mainly for its initial purpose: to stay informed about Greek social events.

“I use GreekLink to help stay up to date with what’s happening on The Row, not just in my house but in other houses as well,” said Nicole Yarnold, a freshman majoring in global studies. “I think a good amount of students use it. It’s nice to know what’s going on with other chapters as well as your own.”

Besides updating the app’s communication features, Johnson also spent his summer attending a Marshall program called Accelerate, Incubate, Mentor, where his app got access to capital from outside sources. His experience there, in addition to efforts to reach out to family and friends, secured funding for GreekLink.

“Now we can hire a lot of people,” Johnson said. “We have people working for us to expand and market [the app], and we have developers to make changes.”

Johnson said 10 new hires have been made, including two developers who will be starting shortly.

The funding has also opened doors for GreekLink to reach other campuses. Indiana University and Vanderbilt University have introduced the app to their Greek communities, and the app is expected to launch at UCLA and California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo next month.

To expand across the nation, Johnson and Gootnick contacted friends at other universities, where they hired campus reps. Campus reps publicize GreekLink at their own schools and to reach out to chapters’ social chairs, who have the option to share their house’s social calendar on the app.

Getting GreekLink off the ground was an eight-month process, but maintaining it is also a significant time commitment, Johnson said.

“If I had more time, we could respond to feedback right away and expand faster,” he said. “I’m balancing being a student and growing this company as well, so I’m kind of limited on time.”

Johnson and Gootnick don’t have to do all of the work on their own, though. Johnson has received help from three professors, including Viterbi professor Ashish Soni, who has mentored Johnson on strategy and marketing every week this semester.

“I think we’ve had some great progress,” Soni said. “We’ve had some crucial conversations on the vision behind the business, the size of the opportunity and how to make it a great business.”

Soni was also impressed by the drive Johnson showed to develop his app.

“He made more progress toward the idea than other students — he raised money, he built a product, he’d already set up users,” Soni said. “I thought he was very committed and that it was an interesting idea. The dedication he showed was great.”

Last semester, Johnson said it would be his and Gootnick’s dream to reach every Greek system in the United States. Seven months later, the co-founders are closer to their goal.

“Probably every week we get a school approaching us to introduce the app to their campus, and we’re going to continue to expand,” Johnson said. “It’s exciting. It’s good to know that people are using something I helped create.”