Jimmy McDermott’s plans for pursuing consulting while in college changed only moments after his graduation from high school. Thirty minutes after he received his diploma, McDermott, BC ’21, answered a phone call from his superintendent about building a community service tracking app, which he promptly accepted.
McDermott went on to co-found the life-readiness planning tool, Transeo, combining his passion for education with his love for technology and entrepreneurship.
Inspired by his father, McDermott said he decided to explore programming while in high school. During his sophomore year, McDermott took an iOS programming class. At the time, this type of computer science education for high school students was unheard of, he said.
After the class ended, McDermott began doing iOS app development for a number of consulting firms in Chicago—not far from his hometown of Mt. Prospect, Ill. During his senior year of high school, McDermott started his own consulting firm, where he built niche apps for industries like casinos, weight loss apps, and car companies. He planned on continuing consulting in college until receiving that fateful call on graduation day.
Despite his previous plans, McDermott saw the importance of and need for such an idea and began developing Transeo.
Transeo started as a community service tracking app, but it is now a much broader educational program. Although it is still a core part of what they do, with over millions of community service hours logged onto their platform, Transeo has expanded beyond the service tracking module and is now a life-readiness tool, trying to help students figure out what they want to do after high school and how they may achieve that.
“[The beginning involved] a lot of ideation and talking to high school counselors since they were our primary target audience being the ones approving the community service hours,” McDermott said.
Together, McDermott, the superintendent, and their third co-founder, Don Fraynd, began building Transeo in August 2017. By March 2018, during McDermott’s freshman year at Boston College, the group had their first customers.
After entering the technology field early on, McDermott said he wanted to go to college on the East Coast, specifically in a big city with high-tech startups. During his four years in the Carroll School of Management, multiple professors, alumni, and other students helped guide McDermott as Transeo quickly developed.
“A lot of things at Transeo work the way that they do … because of the connections and the experiences I had at BC,” McDermott said. “BC was an incredibly fundamental part to not only my life but also the life of this company and the people that are in it. From day one, we have had BC people involved on the ground floor of the company.”
Among the vast list of mentors McDermott had at BC is associate professor of business analytics John Gallaugher. McDermott took one of his information systems courses as well as his class on the iOS programming language, Swift. He later became a teaching assistant for this course.
Gallaugher said McDermott’s early start with entrepreneurship made him a stand-out student from the start, so he was happy to hear that McDermott was nominated for this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list under the category for education.
“As a young person that’s done so much, Jimmy’s really distinguished himself,” Gallaugher said. “He is the only student to ever be running an active business that had employed other people as a freshman. I’m really delighted to see that he’s in this year’s list. He’s very worthy of that.”
While working as Transeo’s chief technology officer during his four years on the Heights, McDermott was also involved with the Edmund H. Shea Jr. Center for Entrepreneurship.
“One of the greatest things that the Shea Center did and still does is bring in lots of really cool speakers and makes really important connections for students interested in entrepreneurship with people outside of college who are actually doing that full time,” McDermott said. “It was through the Shea Center that I met many people I still interact with within the BC community and have the privilege to call mentors.”
One of these mentors, Jere Doyle, the Popolo Family Executive Director of the Shea Center, served as another guiding figure for McDermott, offering insight and inspiration for the company’s future.
“I think Jimmy exemplifies a great entrepreneur,” Doyle said. “He takes risks and more importantly thinks outside of the box. Starting a business is really, really hard, and Jimmy has that DNA that makes him want to go after something and try something new.”
Doyle said that McDermott’s prior knowledge and experience allowed him to become a great contribution to BC even as Transeo was still growing.
“The great thing about Jimmy is he’s given back to BC already,” Doyle said. “He’s one of these kids who gave back to BC even when he was at BC. He always helped other students in the Shea Center with business ideas, and now as an alum he’s coming back and talking to students. He’s that special type of person that gives back.”
Though Transeo has expanded to offer a variety of products, one branch of the company is Transeo Serve, which tracks community service with a mission that emphasizes the importance and impact of statistics, McDermott said.
“Students that do community service are more likely to finish college on time and return to the community in which they grew up,” McDermott said.
Another of the company’s branches is Transeo College, which helps students apply to college and discover schools they might be interested in, he said. The product also guides them through a process of applying to those colleges with a focus on students who might be first generation or might not have resources to understand the college application process.
“Helping students who might find themselves on a nontraditional pathway explore what their options are post–high school is really where our bread and butter is,” McDermott said. “We have a strong internal thesis that the default high school to college pipeline can be pretty harmful in the lack of career planning and true information about costs, debt, outcomes, and graduation rates.”
Transeo’s mission has further evolved to lower the information asymmetry that exists about what high schoolers want to do and how they may get there. In school districts with inadequate resources, this previously absent information is groundbreaking, McDermott said.
“When we say information asymmetry, what we’re talking about is that students from privileged backgrounds have access to more information about what their options are,” he said. “They have access to things like more resources within their school district, private college counselors, and all these different methods of understanding what their possible pathways are.”
Since both of McDermott’s parents were teachers, specifically for students with special needs, McDermott said he has always been passionate about education.
“Education is definitely a passion of mine,” McDermott said. “I think from a young age, our dinner conversations would be about things surrounding education. It was kind of a nature versus nurture situation where that passion was ingrained in me from an early age. I got to witness firsthand how powerful education can be when it comes to tangibly changing the lives of the students.”
Through his work, McDermott said he hopes to expand access to the types of resources he was provided in high school to more students.
“I think where I got really lucky was the ability to combine education with my other passion,” he said. “Because one thing that I know to be absolutely certain is that the experiences that I was lucky enough to have in high school are, right now, only scalable if you have administrators who are extremely dedicated and also have a large pot of money that you can deploy for those resources. What gets me up in the morning is the ability to take what we’re doing at Transeo with our technology and use that to scale that same experience that I was so lucky to have when I was in high school.”
Today, Transeo is continuing to grow their employer and user bases, McDermott said. Currently, hundreds of school districts across the country use the program. Thus far, Transeo has raised around $5 million.
“Everyday there were and still are tough challenges, whether that’s product market fit, fundraising, building the team, or programming,” McDermott said. “There were multiple times when we wondered if it would even work or be able to stay alive. Some of our highest highs and lowest lows have happened in the span of the same day. It’s very much how a startup works.”