Unconventional Business

A2_CartoonDespite the panoply of student groups serving the interests of the Georgetown community, certain inadequacies in campus life remain unaddressed. In Georgetown’s recent history, student-led startups have sought to fill these voids, building on, and in some cases reimagining, the work of some of Georgetown’s most established institutions. Through their efforts, these startups have challenged the assumption that the bigger and older the institution, the better it attends to student and university needs.

Take admissions, for example. When students visit Georgetown, they want their visit to be a clear indication of their compatibility with Georgetown’s culture. Although the Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society succeeds at opening this university’s doors to prospective students, the startup Campus Sherpa, launched by two undergraduates, offers an alternative to the traditional group tour model by providing a paid, individualized, face-to-face experience with a current undergraduate. This gives prospective students a window into campus life tailored to their specific needs and interests.

This entrepreneurial challenge to the university’s dominant institutions is but the latest in a long line of student opposition to the status quo. In 1971, what is now Students of Georgetown, Inc. was formed in response to repressive measures taken against anti-war student demonstrators, ensuring legal protection for the Georgetown student body. The services that The Corp provided in its starting years include creating Corp Travel to help students plan for study abroad, establishing a Furniture Co-op, and launching Corp Typing and Corp Copying. In an internal memo sent to its members, The Corp explained how they felt they should use their profitability to provide services that weren’t easily accessible to the students of Georgetown.

Students ought to consider this rich legacy of entrepreneurship in their appraisal of campus groups and affairs. Campus Sherpa, The Corp and Georgetown University Alumni Student Federal Credit Union — all originally startups themselves — demonstrate that Georgetown’s most deeply entrenched institutions are not immune to criticism, revision or reimagination. Rather, these institutions lie on a continuum of collaboration and progress, a continuum that all Hoyas should seek to traverse.

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  1. Georgetown Student says:

    Campus Sherpa monetizes the admissions process and it seems like that is the last thing a school like ours should want. Aren’t there enough access issues for low income, first generation, etc. students? I’m sorry, but Campus Sherpa’s desire to profit off of families desperate for a leg up in the admissions process makes me very embarrassed to attend the same university as its founders.

    • another Georgetown student says:

      I think the argument was that starups like Campus Sherpa motivate more established groups on campus to rethink their approach to student service. In this case, perhaps Campus Sherpa’s one-on-one tour model will convince Blue & Gray to offer a similar, more individualized option for prospective students. Competition = innovation.

  2. Not entirely sure how touring a university’s houses is a step up in the admissions process. In any case, if people are willing to waste money on that service, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? If I knew people would pay $50 to see my destroyed townhouse, I’d be running that full time. Not everything that makes money is evil, something that the students of this university need to figure out soon

    • If there’s one complaint I have about Georgetown, it’s that the students are insufficiently dedicated to making money

  3. So let me get this right…a “startup” that charges families to meet with an undergraduate student is being hailed as the new Corp? A bit of a stretch, no?

    I’d point to organizations like GAAP, GERMS, Hoya Blue, etc. that actually provide a substantial level of service to the university as a whole. Not to some app that is bound to be a flash in the pan.

    • SFS 2016 too says:

      Well this startup is actively taking on a monopoly at the school, unlike the Corp which benefits from unquestioned access and can take down editorials inimical to their interests. The majority of these comments are sour grapes against some of the few entrepreneurs on campus

  4. Also Confused says:

    There’s nothing “unconventional” about the Campus Sherpa business model – it’s just another app, designed to service and squeeze as much money as possible from people with large disposable incomes. An unconventional business would be one that services more than the moneyed class, and that doesn’t focus on profit at the expense of community.

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