This New College Student-Exclusive Social Media App Is Taking on TikTok

Collyge CEO Ian Gunther, a three-time NCAA gymnastics champion at Stanford, is betting a student-exclusive app can replace TikTok on U.S. college campuses.
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Published on April 17, 2023
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  • Collyge aims to be a content, group chat, and events hub on college campuses.
  • The app's creators emphasize its commitment to privacy and safety and said its servers are based in the U.S.
  • Users will need a .edu email address to sign up for the app.

TikTok has a new competitor at colleges, thanks to a Stanford University gymnast/entrepreneur.

Collyge is a new U.S.-based social media app with short-form videos akin to TikTok, run by Ian Gunther, a Stanford master of science candidate and a three-time NCAA champion. Right now, Collyge is only available through an invitation to its alpha phase on the Apple App Store, but prospective users can join a waitlist.

The app, operated by Collyge's parent company Connyct Inc., announced late last month that the app will focus on college students by requiring an .edu email address to sign up.

Gunther told BestColleges he was inspired to build Collyge to counter other .edu apps that hide users' identities and breed hateful speech and rifts in the community.

"All over the internet, it's already bad enough when you're behind your screen. But when you're also shielded by anonymity, people will just be ruthless," Gunther said. "I was tired of this, and it's like, how can we make this better and start flipping things?"

So, Gunther decided to create an app that would build community instead of split it. Collyge would not be anonymous and text-based. Instead, it would be centered around one of the most popular forms of communication — short-form video.

The app will include social media staples like direct messaging, filters, images, and polls. However, the app also will have college-centric features like class groups, campus news, and resources.

Gunther said while Collyge is not only trying to replace TikTok on college campuses, he also wants it to house all of students' club, athletics, and study group chats. The goal is for the app to serve as the central hub for students' parties and events, typically a feature dominated by Facebook.

"In my experience, all students use is Facebook groups," Gunther said. "But there's a tension there because most college students aren't on Facebook or at least don't even use Facebook. Why do they use Facebook? Because there's no other alternative; that's the only social media with events."

Instead of monetizing users' data, Gunther said they will monetize the app through event promotion. For example, a fraternity could promote an event on Collyge instead of setting up a table on campus.

The app is being released as a nationwide conversation is going on about whether the country will ban TikTok due to privacy concerns. Colleges in several states have already banned TikTok from campus networks and devices.

Collyge emphasized security throughout its press release, saying it provides a TikTok alternative focused on protecting students' safety and privacy.

Warren Cohn, CEO of Connyct, told BestColleges they planned to create Collyge before the TikTok bans started popping up on college campuses. Once the companies heard the news, they leaned into Collyge's creation in the U.S. by Americans.

Connyct and Collyge plan to push the app before the fall 2023 semester — starting on campuses where TikTok has been banned.

"If there's a vacuum, it's better, and we can replace it," Cohn said. "But no matter what, we were planning on doing this because we believe we're a better and safer alternative."

Among Collyge's security features:

  • All user data is encrypted and stored on U.S.-based servers.
  • Sensitive user data is never stored.
  • Only public-facing information is tracked for relevant content generation.
  • Manual user-set privacy levels are in the settings page.
  • The app does not track any keystrokes (any input on your keyboard).

"College is a time of self-discovery, where we forge the bonds that last a lifetime," according to the Collyge website. "It is our sincere hope that Collyge will be a catalyst for these connections, empowering students to create memories they will cherish forever."