Gone are the days of “planners,” handed out at the beginning of every semester in hopes that college students will actually keep track of their shit. Remember those little notebooks, conveniently sized to fit in with all of your overpriced textbooks and literature that made you realize you maybe weren’t quite as smart as you thought you were? Well, it looks like they may be going the way of the CD-rom.
That’s if the team over at ClassOwl has anything to say about it. Founders Julienne Lam and Sam Purtill were already crazy-busy getting undergrad degrees at Stanford when they decided to launch a company that could potentially disrupt the education industry in a major way. ClassOwl takes that old academic planner and makes it interactive and social, helping students keep track of what they need to do, how long it will take to do it, and keeping them in touch with their professors throughout the whole process.
Julienne and Sam took a break from their busy schedule with the Pearson Catalyst Accelerator program to discuss what motivated them to launch ClassOwl, the badass services they have to offer, and the future of social academic planning. These guys are serious thinkers and it was a pleasure to get inside their heads, even if only for a brief interview. Enjoy!
Give me your elevator pitch for ClassOwl. Go!
ClassOwl is the best way for students and professors to connect with course content outside of the classroom. Using ClassOwl’s personalized planning tool, students can access all of their academic deadlines and assignments in one place, and professors save time managing their courses with an easy-to-use platform that links directly to students.
Our study planning feature provides students with predictive estimates on how long assignments will take, while delivering teachers real-time feedback on how students are performing. Additionally, the mobile app helps everyone stay up-to-date with school on-the-go. ClassOwl helps students alleviate stress, become better learners, and improve the college experience.
I love the name and its accompanying logo. Where’d you come up with it?
The owl is known to be the wisest bird… It can also rotate its head 360 degrees. Naturally, ClassOwl encourages smart student behavior while enabling students to manage 360 degrees of their academic life!
Who’s on your team?
Founders Sam Purtill and Julienne Lam created ClassOwl out of their dorm rooms during their second year at Stanford University. Sam (CEO, Software Architect) studied Philosophy, focusing on logic and epistemology. Julienne (COO, Marketing Director) studied Psychology, focusing on the intersection between people, design thinking, and business operations. Since graduation in June 2013, they have been working full-time with a development agency, growing the team to 10 designers, software engineers, and teachers.
Do you guys have an office? What’s your workspace like?
We have some close friends who have given us office space in their creative agency for the summer. We love it — not only are we surrounded by the insatiable energy of everyone in the agency, we also get to bounce ideas off of them about our product and get instantaneous feedback on how to make ClassOwl better.
I know the majority of you were still in school, Stanford no less, when you were first getting ClassOwl off the ground. What’s it like balancing rigorous academic commitments with the time suck that is running a startup?
We built ClassOwl in school to help ourselves deal with the problem of staying organized with our deadlines and assignments. As we were faced with the problem daily, we were well-suited to find a solution that solved our own needs.
We’ll be honest! It was very difficult to find time to do schoolwork while starting the company, but we found that being in school was actually advantageous for us. Several professors and classes allowed us to work on our company for course credit, while enabling us to recruit a range of talented classmates from both the undergraduate and graduate level to work on specific ClassOwl projects each quarter.
Also, as we were targeting students, we had easy access to our users at every hour of the day… They were all our friends! Now that we’re no longer in school, we can dedicate all our energy to ClassOwl.
Why is ClassOwl the best option for busy, overworked students like yourself?
ClassOwl is the best option because we built it with students in mind, while using it every day for our course planning. We worked with top talent from around the world to find an elegant, universal solution that emphasized the importance of good design. We were steadfast in our vision because we were constantly facing the problem we wanted to solve. This is the first tool for schools that allows students, professors, and administration to collaboratively save time and energy.
In order for this to work, does the whole school need to be using the system? If so, how do you plan on making that happen?
The beauty of ClassOwl is that it is useful to individual students and professors, whether or not the entire school is using it. That said, schools that adopt ClassOwl get additional benefits, such as data on student performance that can be used in the accreditation process. We also integrate into existing Learning Management Systems, making it effortless for schools to adopt ClassOwl. One day, we hope that every school in North America will be using ClassOwl. With our an ongoing partnership with Pearson, the world’s leading education company, we believe we can make it happen.
It looks like you guys are planning to go beyond being “just” an organizer and are interested in becoming a complete social platform. Did I interpret that correctly?
The two key attributes of a successful student are their ability to stay organized and connect with others to learn, be it classmates, professors, TAs, etc. ClassOwl today has solved the organizational component and we will address the social component in future releases. Ultimately, our goal is to be the best platform to help students become better learners, and social definitely fits into that vision.
If so, why do you think the world needs another social platform? What can ClassOwl offer that can’t be found elsewhere?
We are not aiming to be the next big thing in social networking; the social components of ClassOwl will be purely focused on helping students become better learners.
ClassOwl is currently available at three schools. What are your plans for expansion?
We’d tell you, but then we’d have to kill you…
Anything else you’d like to add before I let you go?
Sure… If you want ClassOwl at your school, add yourself to the waitlist on ClassOwl.com!
ClassOwl | Courtesy of startup founders