Baruch graduates create LOOPi for college study collaboration
Aviv Meital was struggling with his online accounting homework when we had a simple question to ask his classmates about one of the problems. He tried to use the master email list provided to all students of the course, but did not receive any helpful responses. There must be a better way to collaborate with my fellow business students, Meital thought to himself. This lack of camaraderie among students in lecture halls is what sparked his idea of developing a web-based platform, called LOOPi, so students can help one another learn the course material more efficiently.
The two kept in contact and are now working with their other business partner, Joe Kim, LOOPi’s CTO, to develop and market the website, which they believe is the answer to this recurring challenge. Kim’s brother worked with Meital and encouraged him to help the pair pursue their business venture. Kim now works on the physical development and technical-side of the website itself, ensuring that it will run smoothly once launched.
When asked what specifically motivated them to make the transition from students to entrepreneurs, Meital proclaimed they wish to “leverage the power of their [students] collective intelligence.” He added, “We believe that education was never meant to do alone—so many students within the same class are probably sharing the same questions, so why not create a social platform that facilitates crowd source tutoring by connecting students seeking help with motivated classmates that are looking to assist on-demand?”
In order to sign up users must provide LOOPi their student email address, which is a key security measure of the site. Once registering for free, the user can search for specific classes using the information on their course schedule. The platform for each specific course (or “Loop”) will consist of group messaging and posts. Students can use the messaging feature to ask a quick question they encounter for a timely response. Alternatively, they would also have the option to complete a submission form requesting more involved aid, such as a study guide.
Multiple students would then respond to that post, and the student would have the authority to choose which classmate they would like to help them. Each person offering to help would pay an agreed-upon fee, in order to incentivize students to assist.
From this fee, the LOOPi partners would also charge a small price for acting as the third party who connected the students. This stipend is likely to be between 5 percent and 10 percent.
There is also a point system that rewards students who actively participate in discussions or those who respond to submissions. Students could later redeem these points for other rewards.
Although both Meital and Gutin agreed that the site is strongly based on trusting its users, they have implemented certain precautions to prevent misconduct. Users are not allowed to request test banks or written essays, and any post that seems suspicious of resulting in cheating will get “flagged” as well.
Meital first tested out this online innovation during a group project for one of his classes. Due to the positive reaction from his classmates he decided that this idea was one worth pursuing. The partners went to Baruch’s Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship first to learn about the resources available for young innovators. This prompted them to join the Smart-Pitch Competition sponsored by Verizon, in which they were finalists in four different categories in June 2015. The team then presented their idea at the CUNY CSE Incubator Competition and was chosen as one of five groups to compete at Demo Day on Dec. 10 of this year. Although they won $5,000 for making it past the first two rounds, they will be competing for the grand prize of $25,000 next month.
As of now, only some Baruch graduate students are testing out the platform, but the site has enough capacity to sustain all of Baruch’s students if they were to use it at the same time.
Right now the partners are focusing on promoting the website to CUNY students in preparation for launch day. They plan on connecting with club leaders on campus to promote their website, as well as to encourage other students who have an entrepreneurial idea to follow through with it.
When asked about the main piece of advice that they would give students who are looking to capitalize on their own ideas, they suggested taking advantage of all the resources a school like Baruch has to offer. “Baruch provides students a vast amount of resources and opportunities to take something as simple as an ‘idea’ through the rigorous, but invaluable process of turning it into a business, and more importantly a scalable business,” both Meital and Gutin agreed. They also advised to start as soon as possible, since when one graduates, it is much harder to get the same kind of support received from the collegiate community.
LOOPi will officially launch in the Spring 2016 semester and will be open to all university students on this date. For now, students can join the testing phase and get a preview of what the “dashboard” will look like once they start using the platform at loopime.com.