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Iowa City's ClusterFlunk Garners Seed Funding

When A.J. Nelson talks to people about what he did on his summer vacation, he can add “helped raise $100,000 for my startup” to the list.

The 21-year-old ClusterFlunk cofounder announced this week that the six-month-old startup had closed a seed funding round that will help him and cofounder Joe Dallago, also 21, hire a developer.

ClusterFlunk resembles a social network for college classmates. Students at four Iowa colleges, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Cornell College, and Kirkwood Community College, can sign up to see other students in their class and form a virtual gathering place on the site. Eventually, Nelson hopes to move the site to schools outside of Iowa.

Nelson would not identify the “strategic investors” but said they are Iowans who have some product experience and contacts.

“We are going to try to find the recipe for capturing large populations of schools,” he said. “We are going to test a ton of things to add to our scale model” in the initial four schools.

ClusterFlunk launched in January to much local fanfare. Hundreds of people showed up to a launch party in Iowa City.

Since then, Nelson and Dallago have kept a casual attitude toward their product, with Twitter and Facebook posts having a decidedly playful flare. Nelson said that has been a deliberate move aimed at connecting with college students.

“We are experts at being students,” he said. “We felt there wasn’t a lot of education-related products that were cool to use. We wanted to come out and make a product students would use. We are building a product for ourselves because we were still students” when ClusterFlunk launched.

But not anymore. Dallago and Nelson have left school to focus on ClusterFlunk full time. This will be the first full school year the site has been live.

“This first full year will tell us a lot,” Nelson said. “This will be the time that will make CF or break CF.”

(Editor's Note: ClusterFlunk was a startup ompany located in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory on the UI campus.)

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