Silicon Prairie News

University of Iowa juniors launch student collaboration and study site

Iowa City January 24, 2013 by Megan Bannister Only 15 days until Big Omaha. Get your tickets before they sell out!

After years of frustration struggling to collaborate with peers in large lecture classes, University of Iowa juniors Adam Nelson (far left) and Joe Dallago (near left) took matters into their own hands in the form of a startup.

The resulting venture is clusterFlunk, a virtual meeting place that allows students enrolled in the same course to collaborate on assignments, help one another study before tests and upload documents.

The site will go live tonight at a launch party the duo is hosting in Iowa city.

Nelson said the idea came about when Dallago grew frustrated with the size of his lecture courses and his inability to collaborate with more students when test time rolled around.

"The night before one of the big exams he just hit a wall, and he was at home and had no one to turn to," Nelson said. "We thought, there's social networks for everything, why isn't there one where I can log on any time day or night and talk to people in the same class?"

Now, thanks to money from student loans and nearly non-stop social media marketing, the pair's dream is becoming reality.

In early December, the team of five held a pre-registration event, complete with live DJs, to test their product at the University of Iowa. clusterFlunk received more than 820 early student sign-ups from the event.

"Afterward we saw that there were some initially great numbers, (so we) decided from there to do the launch at the start of the semester," he said.

Nelson hopes to have clusterFlunk available to students across the country by March, after the product is polished and bugs are worked out.

While the company is still testing out various revenue models, Nelson said clusterFlunk's services are, and will always be, free to students.

Competing companies like Chegg – which coincidentally has roots at Iowa State Univeristy – offer similar services for users to virtually connect with classmates, though Nelson said the site often inserts too many barriers to be truly useful to students.

"The edge we take is that they all build from a top down structure with barriers through the university to get teachers on board before going to students," Nelson said. "We wanted to take all the barriers out and go straight to the students."

Here's a clusterFlunk promotional video in which the co-founders pitch their idea:

 

Credits: Photo courtesy of clusterFlunk. Video from YouTube.

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