Five years ago, Greg Dehn launched a college scholarship platform through which students could find and apply for private grants from companies, nonprofits and other places. Called Kaleidoscope Group, the company also offered a twist — mixing brand promotion and financial aid. That is, Kaleidoscope would work with scholarship sponsors to design and administer their programs via its platform, with a branded logo clearly displayed with each scholarship description.
Today, the company has launched over 10,000 scholarship and grant programs that have awarded more than $ 1 billion in total, Dehn says. Last fall, he launched what the company calls its Award Builder service, a do-it-yourself free version. And in the spring, it will introduce a service cutting transaction fees on donations, as well as disbursing money to students much faster than before. “We’ll be increasing the value of every dollar that’s donated,” he says.
How It Works
Students first complete a profile with their grade point average and other important intelligence. After submitting all that, the system does its thing and comes up with likely programs fitting the student’s profile. Scholarships are displayed on tiles sporting the logo of the brand sponsoring that program, along with a link to an application. If a program is of interest, users click on it and start applying.
The original option, which is still available, a Kaleidoscope team works with an organization that pays the company to design the process, from the online application to managing the system for conducting reviews. The work might include, for example, developing the capability to integrate the application with more-sophisticated candidate selection and review processes, as well as disbursement services and the ability to add things like references from third parties.
With the free Award Builder self-service program, brands can use the platform to publish a scholarship program on the site on their own, without working with the company’s consulting team or paying for its other services. “We recognize that some small organizations are limited in the investment they can make and we wanted to provide a tool that can help them launch a program quickly at a lower investment,” says Dehn. If the brand wants to add more complex tools later on, they can start working with Kaleidoscope’s consultants.
As for the new about-to-be-introduced services, they will reduce the transaction costs on donations and disbursements. That, according to Dehn, can potentially pay for one year of in-state tuition for 25,000 students. Also the company will be able to get money in the hands of students in a matter of minutes, instead of weeks or even months, he says.
During prime season, fall and early winter, there are thousands of programs on the site. Now, since it’s off-peak, students will find fewer. Some examples: at least five $ 5,000 scholarships from the Young Women’s Alliance (YWA) in Austin and $ 5,000 in aid from the Talking Rain Beverage Company’s scholarship, called the Sparkling Ice® Flavorful Future — Go Green Scholarship.
Inspiration for the company came from Dehn’s childhood experience. His family struggled to make ends meet after his father was diagnosed with ALS and couldn’t afford to send him to college. Dehn ended up applying to multiple scholarship programs, ultimately receiving grants from such places as the Howard Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellowship and National Science Foundation Grants, and attending Colorado College. Later on, he got an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, with support from his employers.
Dehn recently closed a $ 10 million Series A round; he’s raised $ 15 million in total.