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Students' business gets national coverage

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DJ Stephan, left, Sadi Chalfoun, Sean Conway, and Justin Miller pose for a photo in Times Square. The four UA students are the masterminds behind Notehall.com which serves as a so-called ""eBay for lecture notes."" Both Conway and Stephan will appear on ABC's ""Shark Tank"" tonight at 8 p.m.

Two former UA students who manage a Web site to help students share class notes will present their product on the ABC show ""Shark Tank"" tonight at 8 p.m.


Sean Conway, who graduated in 2007 with a degree in entrepreneurship, and DJ Stephan, a former entrepreneurship student, will be representing their company, Notehall, on the show.

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Conway described Notehall.com as ""an eBay for lecture notes."" Students are paid to upload their notes or study guides from class to the website where other students can pay to view them.


""Shark Tank,"" in its first season, gives entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of successful businesspeople in hopes of convincing one of the ""sharks"" to invest in their product. The show is similar to ""Dragons' Den,"" a show that airs in Britain and other countries.    


The Notehall team decided to apply for the show at a friend's suggestion. After sending an e-mail to the producers that described the company, the producers requested the team send a video of themselves. After that, they began to fill out applications and eventually a contract.


""It really happened quickly,"" Conway said.


Conway and Stephan flew to Los Angeles in mid-August to film the show. Conway described his experience with the investors on the show as a negotiation.


""Everything relies on your idea and the way you present it,"" he said. ""Being in front of the sharks was kind of a thrill.""


Besides seeing the show's crew around the set, Stephan said the experience was similar to speaking with any other investors.


He said he noticed the ""Hollywood aspect"" because in a normal situation, they would spend more time explaining their idea in more detail than the show allowed for.


""They really did a wonderful job camouflaging everything,"" he said, referring to the cameras.


Fadi Chalfoun, who graduated from UA in 2008 with a degree in computer science, works as Notehall's chief technology officer. Since ""Shark Tank"" was a new show at the time they applied, he said he wasn't sure what to expect. However, he said it is exciting because it is on a national network.


""It took a while for it to hit us until we saw the first episode,"" he said.     


Conway and Justin S. Miller, an accounting senior at UA, founded and launched Notehall in October 2008 at UA.


""We wanted to perfect it at one school first,"" Miller said.


Now, the service is available at 14 universities and has tens of thousands of users across the country. Chalfoun estimated about one-third of UA students use Notehall.    


The idea for Notehall came from Conway's experiences with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in school.


""There were so many distractions I couldn't take it all in,"" he said, referring to large lecture classes at the university.    


Conway compared Notehall to a large study group.


""I think it provides an overall understanding and different perspectives of the course,"" he said. Miller was the academic affairs director of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona when he came up with the idea.


""I was able to see firsthand what the biggest issues were at UA with academics,"" he said.

Miller said some clubs and greek organizations have access to study materials that others don't, but with Notehall, anyone can join.    


""The idea is that it makes it an even playing field,"" he said.


Chalfoun said everyone benefits from using Notehall. The people who need the extra help can have an additional resource while those who supply it will learn by taking better notes.

Emily Malchicoff, a communications senior, said she used the study guides posted on Notehall a few times for her accounting and economics classes last year.""It was helpful at the time,"" she said. ""It was really useful before a test.""


Notehall is hosting an early viewing party for UA students at Sam Hughes Place Championship Dining from 6:45 to 8 p.m. as sort of a ""meet and greet"" with students before the show airs, Miller said.


Stephan said they have not seen the show yet.


""We're in suspense as much as everyone else is,"" he said.


Regardless of the show's outcome, Conway said doing the show was valuable in getting publicity and to show that they are not just interested in money.


""It's important to let people know that we believe in the idea and want to see it succeed,"" he said.


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