Tech startup links students with U alumni

Homi, a networking app made by Carleton grads, is currently used at six schools nationwide.

Homi CEO Philip Xiao, right, and Head of User Acquisition Greg Paik pose in their new office space in the Minnesota Supercomputer Building on Monday afternoon. Homi is a new start-up app that was designed to build relationships between students and alumni.

Kathryn Chlystek

Homi CEO Philip Xiao, right, and Head of User Acquisition Greg Paik pose in their new office space in the Minnesota Supercomputer Building on Monday afternoon. Homi is a new start-up app that was designed to build relationships between students and alumni.

Logan Carroll

A new networking app is working to humanize the post-college job hunt by connecting students to alumni who have already weathered the process.
 
 
The app, called Homi, launched at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management last month, aims to foster connections that lead to employment. 
 
 
It can be a demoralizing endeavor, said Gregory Paik, Homi’s head of user acquisition, adding he knows all too well the struggle of finding a job after graduating. 
 
 
“When I got out of school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Paik said. “I sent out 20 resumes a day for two months.”
 
 
Most companies limit their recruitment to a handful of “target schools,” said Phillip Xiao, Homi’s founder and CEO. 
 
 
“You have to apply cold if you didn’t go to one of these schools,” said Xiao, a 2015 graduate from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. “It’s a tough feeling, a horrible feeling. I’ve been there.” 
 
 
Xiao said he knew there was a better way to establish the connections that open doors to jobs. 
 
 
“Students realize, ‘If I want to get a job, I have to connect with my alumni,’ and there’s no way to do that,” he said.
 
 
Homi allows students to create profiles and post questions that alumni can answer, Paik said. Companies can also pay to post jobs, he said. 
 
 
Paige Benson, the Director of Events for Entrepreneurship Club at Carlson, said Homi creates a path for current enrollees to connect with past students. 
 
 
“We’ve had a problem that when students graduate, we don’t know who was in the Entrepreneurship Club before us. We don’t know who they were or what they’re doing now,” Benson said.
 
 
Though Benson said only a handful of Carlson students are using Homi, including herself, she said she believes in the app’s potential and has encouraged alumni to sign up.
 
 
Currently, Homi is used at six United States schools and is methodically expanding. Xiao said he anticipates the app will have a presence at 12 colleges by the end of the year.
 
 
“We don’t want to put out a half-assed product,” Xiao said. 
 
 
Currently, Homi is only available at the University to Carlson students, Xiao said, adding there are pushes to bring it to the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Engineering.
 
 
Viswa Challa, a junior studying Computer Science, wants to see Homi expand to CLA. 
 
 
“Networking is left to students reaching out through LinkedIn, maybe a career fair,” he said. “There isn’t an easy and simple way to look into career opportunities, and I don’t think the University does a good job at providing those resources.”
 
 
Challa said he likes Homi because it gives users a more personable interface than other networking tools.
 
 
“If I’m looking for an alum who has gone to a certain company … it’s cold calling,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable, distant [and] doesn’t feel natural. From what I’ve seen of Homi’s interface, it feels more natural.”