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College Party Scene Gets High-tech Help
Zach Suchin and Matt Graham know what college students like.
As undergraduates at Emory, the pair made thousands of dollars in cash persuading their fellow students to turn up at certain bars or clubs on a certain night of the week.
In between classes and regular college life, they schmoozed with Atlanta club owners, made connections around town and hustled their way into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of party promoting. They learned the business from older Emory students, first passing out fliers as freshmen before moving up the ranks to run the parties. They'd take home stacks and stacks of $10 and $20 bills for their trouble - their cut of the cover charge paid by classmates to get into the places they promoted as hottest place in town.
Now the two, along with current Emory sophomore Jason Schutzbang, hope to turn their local success into a nationwide Internet phenomena. After months of planning and two major introduction parties, their new venture, www.collegetonight.com, goes live today.
It's been called Facebook for night owls - a reference to the hugely popular college Web site used by students around the nation to post profiles and reconnect with old friends. College Tonight focuses specifically on the after-hours activities of its online college members, offering students a way to make their party plans with the click of a mouse. Suchin drummed up angel investors for the initial startup capital. College Tonight, which went got a head start at Atlanta colleges in the last two weeks, already has about 1,000 members,
"Our site is not about sitting around and looking through profiles," Suchin said. "It's about encouraging people to go out and be social."
It's also about making money. Suchin, a California native, is quick to rattle off statistics about the untapped college market. College kids have billions of dollars in disposable income, he said, and everyone is scrambling for a piece of the pie.
"The 18- to 24-year-old crowd is extremely important to advertisers," said Suchin, 22. "It's a huge market."
Suchin and Graham, a New York native who also is 22, recently threw a launch party for the site at Club Eleven50 in Atlanta.
At 11:55 p.m. on a recent Thursday, Suchin, a drink in hand and wearing a pink tie, jeans and a ball cap, surveyed the party over the pulsing dance music. More than 1,000 college-age kids were packed inside, sweaty bodies in designer clothes, leaning close, sipping drinks. Every person represented a $10 profit for Suchin and Graham - and the club was at capacity. Just after midnight, hundreds more were still crushed in a line outside, straining against the ropes, waiting eagerly for their turn to pay their cover (later upped to $15) and get their chance to party.
Graham, in a pressed button-down shirt, coolly shook hands and directed people to the club's VIP room. In addition to the site, Graham is still running his club promoting business, MisEdukated Entertainment. The company netted $100,000 last year.
"It's crazy," Suchin yelled over the din. "Look at the people in here."
Inside, Schutzbang, the Emory sophomore, grinned and chatted with friends. Schutzbang, College Tonight's chief technology officer, was recruited by Suchin to run the design portion of the new site after the two met on campus last year. The 19-year-old Philadelphia native now balances his class schedule with late-night phone calls to Romania - where the site's programmers are based.
"It's definitely been a commitment," Schutzbang said. "But it will all be worth it in the end."
Both Suchin and Graham said promoting made them "financially independent" early on in their college careers. Emory students have money to spend, they say, and are looking for leaders to tell them where to go.
"It's about directing the herd," Graham said. "College kids want to know where to go."
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