NIU alumnus talks about launching, being on MTV

NIU alumnus Alex Broches recently appeared on an episode of MTV’s True Life titled “I’m being cut off by my parents” after he borrowed $10,000 to launch

By Chelsey Boutan

It has been Alex Broches’ and his family’s goal for years to save enough money to buy a home together.

But when the 23-year-old NIU graduate decided to start an academic website for college students, he borrowed $10,000 that his family saved for a down payment on a house. He reassured them he’d pay them back and they would all be rich when the website took off in a year.

Looking back, Broches, a Sycamore resident, remembered how devastated he was when that didn’t happen.

“I felt like complete sh*t,” Broches said. “I went a couple of nights where I couldn’t sleep. I was just … I hit rock bottom. Because that’s some heavy stuff. I took a huge gamble and it didn’t go the way I planned.”

Despite difficulties he’s faced while trying to make his website,, a success, Broches has no regrets because taking a risk to follow his dream has paid off in other ways. His story was recently featured on an episode of MTV’s True Life series called, “I’m being cut off by my parents.”

“People always ask me, ‘Hey, would you do it all over again?’ And I tell everybody the same thing: ‘Hell yeah I would do it all over again, because look what happened. Maybe I didn’t make millions of dollars off the website, but four million people saw me and know my story now,'” Broches said.

Broches said being featured on True Life was “very, very surreal.” He said he loved every minute of the 60 hours spent filming his story, but at times felt pressured to make his dream of having a successful website a reality.

“There’s a ton of pressure when you’re trying to perform in front of millions of people, you’re trying to preform for your website, and you gotta pay back all the money you owe your family,” he said.

Broches said when the episode aired for the first time on Nov. 5, the College Junkee site received 345,000 page views and 91,000 unique visitors.

“And that’s when my site crashed a lot that day,” Broches said. “It was a big-*ss headache. The site was crashing and spammers were trying to cause viruses. It was hectic that day.”

Fame, fortune

There were times growing up when Broches was without heat and water, but that inspired him to create a successful website that he thought would solve all of his family’s financial problems.

Even though that didn’t happen, Broches is earning money by doing freelance social media and Google marketing for DeKalb and Sycamore businesses. He has also repaid his mother $8,000 out of the $10,000 he borrowed from the family to get his site started.

Broches said a few weeks after the episode aired, he got a taste of what it feels like to be a famous person. He was shopping at Jewel when he was approached by two people who recognized him from the episode.

“I had two people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, we saw your show. It was awesome.’ And it was so weird because I was just there to shop,” Broches said.

Broches said even if College Junkee became as popular as Facebook, he wouldn’t want to be famous, because he is a very private person.

“Obviously I’d like to have as much money as [Facebook creeator Mark Zuckerberg], but I don’t really care to be that famous,” he said. “I’d be happy living out in the middle of the woods with my own little house and a lake.”

Making changes

Broches has made a lot of changes to his website since he met Sam Yagan, CEO of, while filming. During the episode, Yagan criticized Broches’ website and gave it a 1 out of 10 rating.

“That guy is a successful Internet company owner and he’s a millionaire,” Broches said. “So whatever comes out of his mouth, I’m going to listen to. It’s good to be criticized, because that means he’s trying to help you progress. If he said, ‘Oh, it’s cool,’ then no one wins.”

After meeting with Yagan, Broches decided to make major changes to the College Junkee website. The original academic site allowed students to upload syllabuses and homework assignments, but Broches took Yagan’s advice and turned College Junkee into a dating site for college students.

Backlash, support

After the show aired, Broches got over 2,000 emails and Facebook messages. He estimated that out of those 2,000, he received 10 or 15 messages from viewers who called him a “loser” and a “douchebag.”

But Broches said he wasn’t upset with their comments, because he received overwhelming support from college students who told him, “Keep doing what you’re doing and it will work out eventually.”

“There was even one wacky guy from Texas who told me I should run for president,” Broches said with a laugh.

Future for College Junkee

Broches said he’s not exactly sure what the future will be for College Junkee. He said he is always brainstorming ideas, looking for investors and wants to expand the site one day.

“As far as what the future is, I don’t know, because a year ago I didn’t think I would be in front of a couple of million people,” Broches said. “The best thing is to keep making progress each day and the future makes its own.”