Image from Sussle.

After the tedious and often painful experience of completing college applications, most high schoolers take one look at scholarship application and brush it off: alas, the opportunity cost is too great. Why go write more essays for a scholarship that seems impossible to receive when you can scroll through Facebook and stalk other’s college acceptances and posts instead? Sussle founder Chuck Kao provides a resounding answer to this rhetorical question. In 2012, Kao founded Sussle, a no-essay scholarship contest that is based on posting viral content on their social media platform. Users must register and sign in using their Facebook accounts in order to verify that they are real people. After that, all you need to do is find a topic and post anything interesting and has the potential to go viral. Winners are determined by who is at the top of the leaderboard (which is based on a complex algorithm that assesses number of likes per posts) by the end of the allotted time.

Just recently, Sussle has undergone some significant changes. Here, I interview Chuck Kao about the core concept of Sussle and the new features and changes made.

Without further ado, here’s the interview:

I know you already mention this on the site, but I’d like to ask again: Why did you decide to create Sussle?

I had started a previous startup called socialflavor that was about sharing your Facebook likes, then we would match your likes with other people to tell you how much you share in common other people. We found that people really liked sharing their likes but didn’t actually care about what they have in common with strangers. That startup died, but I always thought there was still something to the idea. Sussle took the best of that idea, and I mixed in a social cause that was important to me.

The commonality between Sussle and Socialflavor is just the ability to share things that you’re interested in. That’s why it’s organized by topics.

Can you explain a bit how Sussle differs from Facebook? What benefits do you see in Sussle as compared to platform more similar to Facebook?

I think we are pretty different from Facebook. First, we are not built around the social graph like Facebook is. Sussle isn’t about sharing things with friends and family. It’s about sharing things with others who have the same interests.

Second, we don’t have the concept of a personalized feed. Because Sussle is organized by topic, you can see everything related to one topic. On Facebook, everything is on your feed. And once it rolls off, then it’s gone.

Can you specify how you plan to modify the site?
Note: As of mid September 2015, these changes have been implemented.

Sussle will still be organized by topic. In the current Sussle, we tried to define the best posts as those that got the most votes from impartial voters. We built a complicated algorithm to figure all this out. It actually works pretty well. The problem, however, is that this suppresses the natural virality of content. In order for Sussle to grow bigger, we want to unleash this natural virality and simplify the system.

The new change will be that we will use the count of Facebook likes on a post to measure how good it is. The scholarship, and the sorting we use throughout the site will rank posts by their like count.

It’s a simpler system for one because it will rely on the Facebook like system which everyone is familiar with, and it reduces the barriers to rating content.

We will also be switching the scholarship to $100 dollars every week and rewarding the author of the best post for that week. I hope the shorter timeframe gives more people a chance to participate who otherwise couldn’t commit to a month-long contest. This also reduces the pressure to simply post a lot which isn’t conducive to great content.

We are also opening up a scholarship a bit more. We used to require US citizenship, but that left some people out. So we are eliminating that eligibility requirement.

Last but not least, do you have any advice for college students?

The world has changed since I went to school. Back then, you really didn’t have to work through high school. You have to get an internship during your college junior year of summer so that you could put it on your resume for senior year interviews.

But I think now, students need to plan much earlier for their first job out of college. I think they should be thinking seriously about what they want to do when they grow up, and use the summers to explore jobs in those fields. Even if you work for free/volunteer, the experience will help you understand what it means to work in a certain field and whether it’s the right thing for you or not. Then you can use that experience to help you get a better internship in college. And that can help you get a better job after graduating college.

Today, I think there are also more ideas about how to live cheaply :). For example, I’m read[ing] stories about students converting school buses into their dorm room. So look for these ideas, and don’t just think you have to do what everyone else does which is take on a lot of debt.

Finally, I hope all students realize that they’re success is solely in their hands. I went to a good college, but as an entrepreneur that doesn’t help me so much. And having worked for many years now, I have met many successful people that didn’t go to a top-tier college. So I don’t think it matters how good a school you get into so much as finding something that you really enjoy and working hard to be great at it.

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the author

Lucy Zhang attends Duke University and is majoring in electrical and computer engineering. Her passions include watching anime, sleeping, and writing the occasional article or two when productivity levels are high enough.

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