Students create program to simplify college
Not only did the movie “The Social Network” gross around $96 million, it also inspired a couple of UA students to push forward with their dream of creating a startup, which will launch its pilot program this summer.
Andrew Chaifetz and Matthew Silverstone, both marketing seniors, thought of the idea for NoteBowl in 2010, when they were freshmen. Frustrated with the lack of student engagement and networking, the two went to work co-founding the startup to help students connect with classmates and professors.
The purpose of NoteBowl is to aggregate all courses, information, applications and resources on campus into one social platform. The NoteBowl team, consisting of 14 students, is working with University Information Technology Services and will launch a summer pilot program with professors.
“It’s really just about seeing a frustration and having the passion to solve that problem and come up with a really good solution,” Chaifetz said. “I just had the drive and persistence to get through it and that’s what it’s all about. I wake up NoteBowl and go to sleep NoteBowl.”
Laurel Wadlund, assistant director of production integrity and enterprise applications at UITS, is advising the NoteBowl team in getting its pilot off the ground, although the startup is not a UA project or product.
“They seem to be a group of great, smart young people who are taking a lot of initiative to crease a business, and that’s always a very good thing,” Wadlund said. “It’ll be very interesting and exciting to see how things progress for them.”
When the idea was born, Chaifetz and Silverstone spoke with professors and administrators and searched for programmers who could help make their vision a reality. In December, the team received a $300,000 Angel investment from a former network and systems administrator at Microsoft, which is helping them hire the individuals necessary to progress.
The startup will allow students to collaborate with classmates and integrate class syllabi into one calendar, which then syncs to mobile phones. Students can receive instant notifications about tests and quizzes and ask professors questions, among other functions. Since the platform will also integrate Google Apps, students can sync Google Drive to their phone where they can edit and update to NoteBowl.
Chaifetz said the ultimate goal is to simplify the organizational process for college students.
“Every student that I talked to said, ‘Man, I wish everything was automatically in one place,’” Chaifetz said. “Students already have enough on their plate. Why can’t we just automatically
organize this stuff for them and make education more about the learning and not about organizing technology?”
Hope Towne, an adjunct instructor with the Center for English as a Second Language, said NoteBowl could especially benefit students in CESL because professors use two different systems: Desire2Learn and Jupiter Grades.
“I know for our students it can be confusing,” Towne said. “They can kind of get mixed up between the two [systems]. I think integration is very helpful.”
Last spring, the company was named one of the top 15 college innovations in the nation by Microsoft, and the team was invited to Silicon Valley. There, team members met startup founders from Yelp, Flixster and TaskRabbit and participated in a startup bootcamp.
The team is also competing in the Venture Madness pitch competition, which is run by the Arizona Commerce Authority and Invest Southwest. Chaifetz said the NoteBowl team represents some of the youngest members competing.
This summer, when the cofounders graduate, they plan to move to the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, where they will analyze the pilot program and see how successful it was. Chaifetz said his hope is that NoteBowl will eventually serve as the platform for universities across the nation and become the future of education.
“Your college is not just about your courses,” Chaifetz said. “It’s your entire university experience, and that’s what we’re trying to capture with NoteBowl. We feel a more connected campus will produce more efficiency and more effectiveness and allow students to be more successful and understand everything that’s going on at the university.”