News Column

Rutgers Students Use Crowdfunding to Develop App

September 9, 2013

Rutgers Business School

rutgers biz school
Rutgers Business School

For every college student who has heard about an interesting speaker or a campus job fair after the event has taken place, Rutgers Business School student Chris Arthur and two of his enterprising pals have a possible solution.

It's an app in development.

Arthur and his friends, RBS seniors Christopher Akparanta and Paul Aderinto, call their idea CampusBord and with the encouragement of Rutgers Business School professor Brett Gilbert, they are using the crowdfunding platform RocketHub.com to raise $35,000 to begin the process of turning their idea into a marketable product.

"The mission of CampusBord is to maximize the collegiate experience by providing students and organizations with an efficient means of connecting to each other and what's happening on their campus," the students said in a description posted on RocketHub.

"Our vision is to make cluttered bulletin boards a thing of the past," the students explained, "and to build the leading digital bulletin board and social service."

Crowdfunding is a modern day, online version of a centuries-old practice of asking the public to donate money to get something accomplished. In 1884, for example, 125,000 Americans raised $100,000 in six months to help pay for the Statute of Liberty pedestal to be completed.

Modern crowdfunding platforms like RocketHub and its rival Kickstarter give artists, scientists and entrepreneurs the ability to cast a wide net for contributions to finance their art, research and business ventures.

"It's really patronage on a massive level," said Alon Hillel-Tuch, co-founder and chief financial officer of RocketHub.com. "People are capable of communicating on a level unheard of in the past."

Gilbert, who hopes to eventually establish a dedicated crowdfunding venue for Rutgersstudents, calls the current effort FundSPARC Funds Students, Partners, Alumni, Resources and Communities.

The idea of encouraging the students to launch their projects on RocketHub comes as no surprise when you consider that Gilbert's research has focused on seeking to understand the conditions under which ventures thrive. She has also taught a number of entrepreneurship courses that concentrate on innovation and creativity.

The FundSPARC initiative is also supported by The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers Business School, which nurtures entrepreneurs and start-up companies through a variety of programs and resources.

In April, Chris Arthur and his two partners generated early momentum for CampusBord when they competed in Blerdology's signature #BlackHack Hackathon. The trio won the 24-hour competition for coders and developers to build innovative apps and websites and in doing so they attracted the attention of Gilbert.

A second group of Rutgers Business School students, seniors Michael Rodriguez and William Munoz along with Sarah Moritz, who graduated from RBS in May, launched an even more ambitious project on RocketHub as part of FundSPARC.

They're hoping to raise $85,000 to build a prototype of Zurge+, a touch-screen kiosk that would dispense a small portable cellphone charger for a nominal fee.

"All you have to do is plug the charger into your phone and continue on your way," the students said in their description of Zurge+ on RocketHub. "There is no need to wait in one spot next to an outlet while your phone charges."

To make a contribution to either project, simply go to RocketHub.com and use the search button in the upper right side of the screen to find CampusBord and/or Zurge+. Hit "fund" to help the students reach their goal.

Gilbert said it's hard to predict from the get-go whether any product will succeed in being developed and reaching the market. In reality, both of the products the students are trying to develop were mere ideas only a short time ago.

"Both ideas have potential. They both solve problems," Gilbert said. "But sometimes, it's not so much about the idea as it is the execution."

That's where money comes in as well as determination on the part of entrepreneurs, who must sustain their ambition and optimism despite the obstacles and the odds. Gilbert said both of her teams of students have not only the drive but also the skill sets needed to advance their products.

Rodriguez and his partners have already investigated the possibility of forming a LLC, or limited liability company, and they're in the process of researching what it takes to obtain a patent. Still, being able to secure the first wave of funding is critical.

"We're looking to raise enough money to take the idea as far as a prototype so then maybe we can go to investors and ask for full funding," Rodriguez said.

"It's going to be hard, but it's important that we make it to that point," he said.

Gilbert said in the field of entrepreneurship, the experience of trying to build a venture, whether the students succeed or fail, is meaningful. "You don't know what to expect until you try it," she said. "There's a lot of literature that suggest most success stories started with a failure."

"There are advantages for them to go through this process now," Gilbert said. "College students are more resilient. If they fail now, before they have families to support, they still have time to recover."

SOURCE Rutgers Business School


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