Every story has a call to adventure, a catalyst that pushes a character out of their comfort zone and into the unknown. Twenty-one-year-old Justin Yoo may not be the hero of a fantasy novel, but ask him what his catalyst was, and he’ll speak fondly of the day when he first saw a startup work its magic. Yoo made ice cream sandwiches then. Now he works for Going Merry, the startup that aims to help high school seniors apply for scholarships more easily.
“An obstacle for a lot of students anywhere is money… College isn’t cheap. Education isn’t cheap. After you finish the college application process, a lot of students are burned out.”
– Justin Yoo, Going Merry founding team member
Going Merry’s fundamental goal is to change that culture. Advertising themselves as a “common app for scholarships,” the organization helps students build their profiles, filtering outdated or irrelevant scholarships, and presenting those that remain to the user.
While Yoo now attends UC San Diego, having gone to two years of community college after graduating from Gunn, he reflects on his time at Going Merry with satisfaction.
“Being a part of that small team and seeing growth in the company and seeing students apply for scholarships; I thought that was a really positive experience for me.”
Since the age of 15, Yoo had juggled a variety of food service jobs in Palo Alto. But when he received an offer to work for Fluc, a delivery startup pre-Doordash, he knew it would be different.
“Working at Fluc got me really interested in the startup atmosphere and the culture.” Yoo says “The reason why I love it so much, is because … you can really see the impact of your work. Everything you do is so important.”
Two years later, Yoo found himself working in a startup incubator. “They [incubators] provide tools, learning sessions,” Yoo said. “You’re working closely with some company that has experience … helping companies expand and grow.”
Yoo shared the office space with a man named Raymond Murthi, one of the co-founder.
“I wasn’t working directly for Going Merry, but I was working right next to their [Murthi’s] offices,” Yoo says. “We’ve always had this line of talk on how I was interested in working with them … And I honestly just kind of sent an email … and we agreed that I come in.”
Why Going Merry?
Having been through high school and the whole college application process, Yoo understands how much hard work is required.
“Going through all these scholarships, there are so many that you could apply to easily and possibly win a substantial amount of money,” Yoo said. “What I heard about this company [Going Merry] was something I knew students would use, students could really benefit from.”
And Yoo was correct. The company has seen enormous growth. “A few weeks ago, ever since we broke through a thousand [users] … we actually had to cut off signups for a little bit,” Yoo says. “It just started to grow exponentially.”
The company also boasts a slew of success stories under its belt.
“We actually did a pilot [program] with Kipp Bay Area High School … and we saw that student applications increased fivefold,” Yoo said.
“Gunn High School’s great,” Yoo says. But while he had the privilege of attending Gunn, Yoo credits his success to something else.
“I guess my experience at Gunn didn’t do as much to facilitate my interest in startups more so [than] growing up in Silicon Valley and Palo Alto,” Yoo says.
As a former high school student, Yoo has a few choice words for those anticipating the chaos of the college application process.
“Honestly, just don’t stress about it,” Yoo says. “I know that’s going to sound kind of useless to a lot of kids … I’m still here today, and you’ll be fine no matter where you go. Things always find a way to work out.”