40 under 40 — Josh McWilliam

Pi, 2002 — Recognized in: 2020

Photo of Josh McWilliam.As an undergraduate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY, Josh studied Computer Systems Engineering. As a Junior he landed a job as a Senior Software Engineer at an Internet startup that was later sold to America Online (AOL). He has been building online businesses ever since. 

After working at AOL for a short time, Josh co-founded the company that he still works at today.  The company has built several businesses since then, including a community building platform called iBelong Networks to a software licensing and monetization platform called FlatBurger. Josh has always led the product and engineering teams for all of these ventures, including more of the more successful, BrightHub, which is still in operation today. Josh led the effort to build the proprietary content management system that enabled thousands of writers all over the world to team up and publish content on hundreds of topics. Bright Hub ultimately peaked at the 182nd largest site in the United States, totalling over 36M pageviews a month.“

According to Josh, becoming a brother of Zeta Psi was one of the best things to come from college.

“Some of my best lessons on leadership came as the active Phi. You can’t simply command people to do what you want them to and must develop the ability to convince and build consensus to get things done.”

Josh says he made a lot of other mistakes during his college journey and the desire to help save others from similar mistakes led him to launch his current venture, College Factual. A mix of Consumer Reports meets eHarmony for college selection, College Factual publishes in-depth college profiles and rankings to help students make better decisions. Their innovative matching technology helps students find their future faster by identifying their best fit education for less. 

“Every student has a superpower. My mission is to help students identify that gift and to help them identify a college that will launch them into a career where they can share that gift with the world, and do so without a mountain of debt holding them back!”

Josh offers the following advice to undergraduate students:

“I would encourage everyone to give working in a startup environment a try, or better yet, give creating one yourself a go. Being at a small company with big goals means there is often no ceiling on what you can accomplish. There is always more work to do than people to do it and thus plenty of opportunity to step into bigger and better roles if you have the drive to fill them. A single year of experience at the right startup can be worth 5 at a normal company and you can come out of it having skipped a number of steps in the corporate ladder if you choose to go that route afterwards. What may seem risky at the time really isn’t. It can be easy to end up 20 years later looking back, with kids and a mortgage and a hundred other demands on your time wishing you had done so when there was so little risk”

Josh now serves as the Elder Phi of the New York State Capital District Alumni Association of Zeta Psi. He and his wife Kristianna have 4 kids that keep them busy, including an 8 year old, twin 5 year olds and a 6 month old. He also serves as the president of the Board of Trustees of Robert C Parker School, a small progressive independent school that his oldest 3 children attend. 

Check out his company here: www.collegefactual.com

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