When we first met social networking startup Togetherville, it was in the basement - literally. Less than a dozen people coding away, inviting kids (and their parents) into a social web world specifically designed for young people. Yes, Facebook says it's for people already 13 and older, which gives Togetherville an opportunity to carve out a virtual world for young people who want to communicate with friends and classmates online.
And it's worked. Togetherville is ramping up extremely quickly, has grown in size, and is now out of the basement, and into a new Menlo Park office. In addition to bringing new people into the fold (kids whose parents also have to sign on for security reasons - if you're interested, I've tried it with my 10 year old, and am impressed both with the variety of activities, and how serious they are about keeping things safe), Togetherville is now giving something back to its target audience.
With schools struggling mightily under the weight of budget cuts, Togetherville CEO Mandeep Dhillon announced a plan to give a $10,000 gift to a local school, as part of the company's "Heart Your School" campaign. Kids on the site can share ideas and fears about schools with other kids, while nominating their school for the grand prize. It's not the 100 million dollars being offered to schools by the federal government, but rather a Silicon Valley techie way to help young people feel like they have a voice in the process.
Who better to address the concerns of our local schools than the students themselves? Togetherville is already onto something by bringing kids together online. Now, maybe they'll harvest some ideas about how to make schools better. With luck, the adults standing over their kids' shoulders will pay attention.
Scott, already a fan of Togetherville, can be found on Twitter @scottbudman