Internet Pioneer Fastweb Celebrates its 15th Anniversary
By Lauren Bayne Anderson
On May 22, 1995, Fastweb brought scholarships to the Internet.
It was the early days of the World Wide Web, and Fastweb was the first free scholarship matching site. By the end of its first day, 270 students had searched for scholarships on the site. And that’s when the legend began.
Since its founding, Fastweb has helped more than 50 million students pay for school, and today there are more than 9 million active members.
This year, Fastweb celebrates its 15th anniversary by looking back at how it all began.
Fastweb was founded by Internet pioneer Larry Organ. The concept was huge for the time — Fastweb was one of the first 100 commercial websites in the United States. Not only was Fastweb a completely new type of business, it was a business with a noble purpose: to help students find money for college — for free.
Back in those early days, the site went by a different name. A really basic web page started students’ scholarship search with two simple questions: “Want to be impressed?” and “What’s your major?” In its founding year the site boasted listings of more than 180,000 scholarships, grants, loans, and fellowships.
Within a year, it was renamed “FastWEB”. In the early days of the web, acronyms were king. And Fastweb was no different—the name stood for (F)inancial (A)id (S)earch (T)hrough the (WEB).
At this point, the site also began offering financial aid advice, written by nationally renowned financial aid expert, Mark Kantrowitz, founder of FinAid.org.
In 1995, Fastweb debuted with this basic website and different name.
Kantrowitz first started with Fastweb as a member of the Fastweb advisory board in 1995, helping launch Fastweb onto the web with technical advice and a prominent link from the FinAid site. He had already made a name for himself by creating the FinAid web site, giving free talks and advice to students about college financial aid and as the author of the Prentice Hall Guide to Scholarships and Fellowships for Math and Science Students. Kantrowitz won the Jefferson Medal from the American Institute for Public Service and a Meritorious Achievement Award from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators for his work on the FinAid site.
In 1999 FinAid and Fastweb merged into a single organization. By then, the number of awards in Fastweb’s database had grown to 400,000 and thousands of schools across the country had begun recommending Fastweb to their students.
On July 12, 2001, with CEO Leon Heller leading the company, Fastweb was acquired by Monster Worldwide, publisher of the Monster.com job search site. Monster Worldwide also owns other well-known websites such as FinAid.com, and Military.com. Monster Worldwide’s aim was to expand its reach into higher-education oriented sites. The relationship proved beneficial to both companies.
By June of 2004, Fastweb had reached 25 million registered users. The number of awards in Fastweb’s database had also grown to 600,000.