BC Startup, Campus Insights, Acquired by Harvard Student Agencies

Riley Soward, CSOM ’18, is back in the media spotlight: His market research startup, Campus Insights, was recently acquired by the nonprofit Harvard Student Agencies (HSA).

The startup, which Soward co-founded with his brother Stephen in 2014, has provided various clients with feedback on how college students interact with their companies’ products or services.

Soward and his team were exploring different ways for the business to stay student-run. They were attracted to HSA’s national and international presence, in addition to its extensive connections.

“HSA is the absolute perfect fit for us,” Soward said.

The young entrepreneur thinks that under HSA, the company has a lot of potential. The Harvard student-run company has a track record of consistently growing businesses, while still dealing with the challenges of managing and turning over the student team every couple years.

“We think they will do a very good job at bringing in new talent, training them, scaling the business, and repeating that cycle again and again,” Soward said.

Harvard sophomore James Swingos will take over as CEO of the startup. Soward believes that to be a good CEO at Campus Insights, one has to be skillful in the various aspects of the job.

“You have to be good at research, sales, and also managing a team, and we’ve seen [James] excel in all three of those situations,” Soward said.

Kelsey Bishop, head of business development at Campus Insights and CSOM ’18, is also optimistic about the company’s future under HSA’s management.

“Campus Insights will continue to grow while staying student-run, which is important in keeping our research valuable for clients and continuing to help companies improve their products for college students,” she said.

After graduation, Bishop will be working at a San Francisco startup called Omni. She said working as part of the Campus Insights team was very valuable in terms of gaining exposure to all parts of a particular business.

“[The work experience] has been valuable as I go on to work at a startup and can approach my job with a wholesome perspective of how businesses work,” she said.

The invaluable experience of working at Campus Insights was also echoed by Ameet Kallarackal, the head of UX strategy and research at the startup and CSOM ’18.

“There is no experience that compares to doing,” Kallarackal said. “The range and depth of education that came from figuring out how to take a good idea and make it a successful one stands light years ahead of what I have been able to learn in lectures.”

Kallarackal is currently the CEO of a new BC-based startup called Fisherman, where he is working with three other BC students on building technology that automates the development of websites, with a focus on the restaurant industry.

As for Soward, he is fairly focused on helping oversee the transition of Campus Insights to HSA. In the future, he hopes to have the opportunity to once again grow a company from an idea to a business, whether by starting another company or joining a startup in its earlier stages.

Soward’s main advice for other young entrepreneurs is to avoid getting stuck in the idea phase and focus on the execution of the idea or project.

“A lot of entrepreneurs, especially at BC, come up with a really cool idea that they are passionate about, but then three, six months pass, and they are still thinking about the idea, and there’s no business there,” he said.

Despite his own entrepreneurial accomplishments, however, Soward still credits his team members for the success of Campus Insights.

“The founders generally get a lot of attention for what is built, but we could not have done this without the amazing team members,” he said. “Each of them played a huge role in the business, and if we didn’t have them, Steve and I would be nowhere.”

Featured Image by Claudia Quintana