This term, some students are starting businesses instead of taking classes.
In a new program called StartUp Term, four small groups of students are spending the term developing and marketing new digital services and products. The program was developed in conjunction by the respective departments of Computer Science and Business.
The groups formed and developed ideas for startups during Winter Term. They then pitched these ideas to the StartUp Term faculty, who decided whether or not to admit them. Six groups pitched ideas, and four were accepted.
The students enrolled in StartUp Term take no classes for the duration of the trimester. They meet in a rented office suite on the sixth floor of the Bondi Building on Main Street, and focus on developing their projects.
“It’s three credits, and that’s what you do for the term,” said junior Sam Hart, who is enrolled in StartUp Term. “We go into the office space that we rented downtown every single weekday … it’s a gargantuan task, coming up with a final product, releasing it and selling it.”
The students also participate in a seminar on entrepreneurship with Professor of Business John Spitell. In this seminar, the students read a textbook about entrepreneurship and discuss the ways it applies to their projects.
“[John Spitell] really brings the reading back to reality,” senior Angel Zuaznabal said. “He talks to us about what we read in the reading, and then how that relates to what we’re doing now … just trying to give us as much information as possible so we can realistically do our projects.”
Some of the projects explore the ways that new digital technologies can be used as tools for sustainability. For example, one of the groups is working on creating a website called Farmet on which farmers can post what produce they have available to sell to businesses or individuals.
“We’re creating a website to make it easily accessible to get local food,” said Zuanzabal, who is part of the Farmet group. “We found an Oklahoma co-op that was doing something very similar to this, and it seems to be very successful over there. So we thought, let’s try to imitate that here.”
Junior Laura Lueninghoener’s group is creating a website called MDLX that aims to reduce waste on college campuses.
“MDLX is a sustainable buying, selling and trading website, built specifically for colleges and universities,” Lueninghoener said. “You would log into this site and it would connect you with other students that are looking for things or trying to sell things on campus. We’re trying to build into the already existing resources on campus, like the Share Shop, the Mail Room, APO Book Co-op, and trying to create a more efficient system and a better turnover of things and reduce waste on campus.”
Junior Nate Moore is part of a group creating an educational technology they call Inquisi. Inquisi will be a smartphone application based on clickers, handheld devices on which students answer questions so that the professor can see the answers in real time.
“What kind of started this idea is the i>clicker, which is used in Knox classes in the Computer Science department,” Moore said. “It’s a hardware version, so you actually have to buy the clicker and the base that receives all the information. It’s not a very easy system to use … but everyone has a phone, so our idea is to turn this into a phone application. We’d be able to make it an easier system to use for both professor and student.”
The last group is creating a set of modifications for the Unreal Engine, a software package used by both major and independent game developers. Tetra Clock, as the project is called, will reduce the amount of time necessary to develop games.
“We’re working on software to eliminate all the time wasted in developing videogames,” said Hart, who is part of the Tetra Clock team. “Right now we’re interviewing developers, trying to figure out what are the pain points in developing video games. We’re sort of predicting features that people will need, to take that development time and knock it down a little.”
When they finish, the Tetra Clock team will try to sell their product to game developers.
All of the groups expect to make money from their projects, which they will be able to keep. However, money is far from the main motive for participating in StartUp Term.
“StartUp Term is probably the best experiential learning you can get on this campus without going anywhere or doing anything extra,” Zuaznabal said. “It gives a group of people with an idea the ability to do something that changes peoples lives.”