The students of Startup Term II in 2017 had to scramble around their suite of the Bondi building, which lacked space and resources. This year, professors in charge had to get a larger space to accommodate the large influx of students interested in the immersive term.
Startup Term 2019 has six teams participating, each with problems and solutions centered on connecting and communicating with others. The program was founded in 2015 by business Professor John Spittell and retired computer science Professor John Dooley and their hope to create more cooperation between their two departments of business and computer science. During a meeting between the two one day, computer science Professor Jaime Spacco came in with the idea for a three credit term designed around students creating their own companies. Startup Term is meant to show students what it means to be a real entrepreneur.
“It’s this real-time experience of 1000 and one reasons why; problems you’re going to hit, reasons you can’t do this, I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Spittell said. “You become very adept at dealing with problems.”
Startup Term has had a number of successes over the last several years, one of them being the Bluebrick Collective, an organization focused on unifying the art community in Galesburg. The painted garbage cans seen around Galesburg were all done by Bluebrick. But more important are the successes of each individual student and the worth they find in the experience.
“Our greatest success is that interdisciplinary teams of students are willing to invest their time and their passion into a shared vision that is vastly bigger and bolder and more ambitious than anything that they could achieve alone,” Spacco said.
A few of this year’s startup term ideas are starting to become real creations through students’ hard work. BOOP is a company that aims to connect those looking for someone to look after their plants and animals while they’re away with those looking to be hired. Prom Planner’s goal is to create a user-friendly platform that planners and attendees can use to better navigate this major high school event.
Startup Term will also include Project X, an application designed to help international students interested in studying in the US network with those already living and studying here. Also working to connect others is Team 11. Inspired by Yelp, they hope to create a more positive restaurant rating site and a more effective rating system. Junior Connor Weeks is one of the three programmers excited to begin work.
“There’s a surprising number of people who are paid to write Yelp reviews and we’d like to be better than that,” Weeks said.
KicksInaBox focuses on a physical product, instead of the digital ones many of the other projects this spring will be based on. They plan on offering a safe storage option for consumers in a growing market for expensive, high-quality footwear.
Another company, SAAS, aims to create a more streamlined means for members of any given community to find events and activities they’re interested in attending tailored to the person’s own passions. Junior Arsalan Najeeb‘s biggest desire for this project is individuality and customizing people’s experiences with their program to fit their personal preference.
“This will change over time, but our main focus is, everyone has different interests. Your interests are different from mine,” Najeeb said.
Beginning day one, students will be quickly moving into the Hill arcade and starting work immediately after. From that point on students will work a regular 9 to 5 schedule every day, working to make as much progress on their company before their final project pitch at the end of the term. One of the biggest struggles junior Alyssa Reid, a member of team BOOP, expects will be focusing on a single project, and nothing else, for one whole term.
“Only focusing on one thing for 10 weeks, that’s a hard thing to do,” Reid said.
Junior Melody Eng, from team Prom Planner, was incredibly excited to be accepted to participate in Startup Term. As a newcomer into the business department, she never expected to participate so early. She’d encourage others in her position to do the same.
“Go for opportunities that aren’t very frequent,” Eng said. “Even if you don’t know you’re going to get it, still try. Because you never know the outcome.”
One of the largest goals for all of the faculty involved in Startup Term is to expand the program into the other majors at Knox, especially the arts. The need for expansion became apparent in the first Startup Term when a need for an expert in the more aesthetic and user-friendly aspects of product design became a necessity. This was when art Professor Tim Stedman was brought in.
“We asked Tim to come on board when it was obvious early on that none of the three of us knew anything about design and we needed an expert,” Dooley said.
Stedman emphasized the fact that entrepreneurship requires many skills outside of business, computer science and design that many would never even consider. One example he gave was the need for storytelling and the possibility of involving the writing and theatre departments and their expertise.
“My best idea currently is to find examples of entrepreneurship in areas that relate to disciplines outside of business, CS and design. It really can and does, happen everywhere,” Stedman said.
Stedman hopes that the skills students acquire in Startup Term help them in all facets of their life, be it business, computer science or just being out in the real world.