Improving student success in higher ed

A conversation with Ari Winkleman | Involvio Founder and CEO

College is a market ripe for innovation. Involvio, a Cisco Investments portfolio company, is at the head of an EdTech class of innovators revolutionizing how colleges think about the student experience and what it means to operate a “data-driven campus.”

We sat down with Involvio’s CEO and founder Ari Winkleman to get his take on what today’s college students want, their surprising expectations about privacy, and how his family’s entrepreneurial history taught him the value of creating value.

Creating a “Data-Driven Campus”

When Ari Winkleman says Involvio is GPS for college students, it’s a message everyone understands. 

“I built Involvio out of my own personal frustration when it came to navigating campus,” Ari told me. “What we find is that when a student arrives on campus, there’s kind of this moment of shock. You know, here I am. I need to make friends. I need to study. I need to get help. And how do I do that?”

Ari says this is where Involvio steps in, providing point-to-point navigation that bridges information about the student and university to say: “You’re a first year student. Here are resources and people and events and groups you can join ultimately to drive you towards the sort of next step in your student journey.”

According to Ari, the challenge for most universities is that delivering this type of personalized experiences means unlocking previously untapped sources of data and creating integrations that previously didn’t exist. 

“Everyone is trying to operate the data-driven campus, and there’s so much latent data on these campuses: data coming off of the network, data coming off of facilities services, like access management, data coming out of the dining hall. The challenge has been as a result of how institutions have grown, every piece of this data has been siloed and it’s never been built around the lens of the student.”

Today’s students and privacy

This raises an interesting question though: how do you balance the institution’s desire to capture more student data to deliver a personalized experience without infringing upon the student’s privacy? 

From Ari’s experience, looking through the student perspective, this isn’t so much anissue, as it’s an opportunity: “What we hear over and over again from students is: ‘I’m here to get a degree and to get a job. And if my institution knows I’m falling off the path for whatever reason — I expect you to tell me. And I expect you not just to tell me that I’ve fallen off path — I expect you to intervene and point me back on path. And I expect you to do that based on everything you’ve learned about students who have come before me.’

To that end, working with Cisco, Involvio has built a totally secure platform that exposes the right data about the right students to the right administrators. 

Founder from a long line of entrepreneurs

The fascinating thing about Ari is his family’s history of entrepreneurship. 

“My parents run a publishing business. My grandfather’s family owned the largest lumber yard in West Philadelphia and had a hand in building a lot Philadelphia. My great-grandfather came to this country as an immigrant and, ultimately, owned all the parking garages surrounding Yankee Stadium.”

“From a very early age, I understood the value of work and the value of creating value. Ultimately, for better or worse, I didn’t really understand the concept of risk. Taking risk was just sort of a natural thing for me.”

Learn more about Involvio.


Hitesh Saijpal leads the Cisco Investments Portfolio Development team whose primary goal is to deliver differentiated value to the portfolio companies by leveraging Cisco’s business enablement infrastructure.


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