PROVO A group of Brigham Young University graduates is behind a new social networking site that it feels is the answer to what all the other networking sites lack real networking.
Jeff Wurtz, the 35-year old CEO of lymabean.com, got his first glimpse into the social networking world when he was teaching at a junior college in California. Conversations with some of his students piqued his interest, and he says he fell in love with the idea quickly.
"It's a college-only site, and we are trying to bring a new model to social networking," said Wurtz. "It's an idea to break away from just making profiles and looking at pictures. We are trying to start a whole new level of usefulness."
For the past few years Wurtz has honed his ideas and brought on people to help him create the site and begin marketing it to a few selected college communities. They have started at the University of Arizona, Arizona State and, because of increased popularity in the area, they opened the site to BYU students as well.
"At the beginning, people thought we were crazy for building a site that would compete with Facebook," said Wurtz. "But people are really not doing anything on those sites. People are addicted to it, but they feel like they are not getting anything out of their time."
Lymabean's main goal is to help connect people, not just for entertainment but also for business and education. They feel that there is a huge disconnect between students in college towns and the businesses that depend on that demographic. One of those main differences was that the two have completely different online activities.
Through lymabean.com, local companies may create profiles, post activities and even put up discounted rates or coupons. But even more important is the way the information might be shared between users. The site allows easy information-sharing between friends by dragging and dropping.
"We didn't just want to create a site that was sexy and pretty but was hard to use," said Wurtz. "We wanted to have concept of sharing what matters to the community."
They call it old-school word-of-mouth meets new-school technology.
BYU graduate Roger Pimentel, 24, is the director of marketing for the site and says that while the company is based in Huntington Beach, Calif., they chose the Arizona schools to launch from because they have a cohesive campus community.
"We sent out an e-mail to ASU students and told them to let us know what the hot places were on and around campus," said Pimentel. "We got a bunch of e-mail from students about what those places were, so we were able to talk to the businesses and say that their customers thought it would be a good match for them."
The businesses may create sites for free and be just a click away from their regulars as well as potential new customers.
The lymabean team has traveled through the towns and promoted the site on campus. Team members say they have had a positive response from both students and local businesses.
As for the name, Wurtz says it was his nickname while growing up. His middle name was Lyman, and people would always call him lymabean.
While on campus tours, the company's creative director David Regnier, another BYU grad, even wears a bean costume and doubles as the company mascot.
"In this demographic people love the bean," said Wurtz. "He runs around on campus and talks to people and they love it. (Regnier) has a great personality and just has fun with it."The lymabean team feels it is just scratching the surface of where social networking could go and is shooting to have 20 to 25 schools by fall.