Social networking is his Uniiverse
Story by Susan Bubak
Just when you thought social networking sites are making face-to-face interaction obsolete, along comes Universe.com, a site that puts the “social” back in social networking. It may sound like a radical concept – meeting online contacts in person – but co-founder Adam Meghji, B.Comp. ’04, says that’s what makes Uniiverse different from other sites.
“Aspects of the platform allow people to safely offer and share their time, interests, skills, belongings and space with other people in real life.” Social networking sites don’t necessarily promote social interaction, he adds, pointing out sites where people amass hundreds of contacts or friends, many of whom they barely know.
“The mission of Uniiverse is to bring people together in real life through our online networks,” says Meghji. “We can use Uniiverse to get together to lead a more collaborative lifestyle.” The postings include social activities, fitness groups, workshops and carpools. Users can also post items that they are willing to rent or loan.
Meghji co-founded the site with company president Ben Raffi and chairman Craig Follett. Raffi and Follett were working as consultants at The Boston Consulting Group when they approached Meghji with their idea. “When they came to me with the concept, it instantly clicked,” says Meghji, who is the company’s chief technical officer.
They were so confident that Uniiverse would be a success, they quit their jobs in June 2011 and started working for the site full-time. They launched in February and work from offices in Toronto and Boston.
Meeting strangers online comes with safety concerns, but Meghji says Uniiverse is safer than other online marketplaces because users must provide verifiable information such as their real name and location to set up an account and earn a “trust score.”
How do you know if the person offering a service is actually qualified? If the service requires certain skills, such as babysitting, the vendor can provide relevant credentials. If parents are looking for a babysitter who has experience working with children with disabilities, they can enter that search criteria to find the right person.
“Everybody has something to offer and Uniiverse is a platform to share that,” says Meghji, adding that anyone can become an entrepreneur on the site. Students, for example, can earn extra money by offering tutoring or lessons. He uses the site himself to offer music lessons on beat-making and DJ-ing, a hobby that he started as an undergrad at Guelph where he was known as DJ Marmalade. He also offers free web and technology sessions where people can meet with him and receive entrepreneurship advice.
Meghji describes himself as “a nerd who loves to build things that can change the world” and says his passions also include kung fu, photography and food-oriented globetrotting. His personal website is adam.meghji.org.
As a co-op student at Guelph, Meghji started his own business called Earwaks.com, an urban music website that kick-started his career in social media, which now spans more than a decade. “It was more of an entrepreneurial work term as opposed to a traditional computer science co-op work term,” he says.
Soon after Meghji’s success, U of G’s Co-operative Education and Career Services launched a co-op business venture program to help students become entrepreneurs. The program provides access to resources both on and off campus, including business, legal and tax advice through the Guelph-Wellington Business Enterprise Centre.