CodeHelp: A Startup for Students

Startup is an interesting word. If you search it on Wikipedia you'll get the following blurb...

A startup company or startup is a business in the form of a company, a partnership or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

That's cool. Those are the things that print money right? Hmm...probably not so much, but Steve and I made one anyways. It's called CodeHelp, and it's aimed at helping our fellow students at St. Cloud State University with programming projects and problems. The idea came about when we realized that a lot of the time we are already helping out classmates with questions, and SCSU doesn't have any tutors in the computer science department for whatever reason. This seemed like an opportunity for us, and we took it.

That idea sparked a roughly 24 hour programming spree from Thursday night to Saturday morning where we whipped a site up with a form page front end and backend to handle emails. The concept was based of a help request ticket system. Students could visit our site and submit a request, it would email us, and we could reply back to help. Along with the email communcation we leveraged a site called CodeShare to have live video chats with our "customers" while coding in realtime.

Hard at work on the site. (~2:00am on launch day) Hard at work

We officially launched this past weekend with an email campaign sent out to our classlists. Thinking ahead we added Google Analytics and used MailChimp so we could get stats and gauge interest. The following is a summation of how it went for the week after launch.

  • In total we sent out 140 emails to our classmates
  • Of those, 47 actually opened the email. (34%)
  • Only 16 of those clicked through to the site. (11%)
  • So far 2 people have gone all the way to contact us. The first was out of curiosity, and the second was looking for help. We successfully helped the second person.
  • Email campaigns are not the greatest for students and a small send pool.

Google Analytics had some info to share as well.

  • There have been a total of 117 sessions, with 56 unique users, and 871 page views.
  • This indicates that we have had traffic from other sources outside of our email campaign.
  • Some of these stats are skewed because of our internal testing. (Lesson learned, do testing in a dev environment instead of on the live site.)
  • Posters around campus were mostly ineffective. There were only 15 site views since putting them up.

So overall the venture being a success is dependant on how it's viewed. We helped a user solve a problem, which was the goal, but haven't made any money. The learning experience was immensely useful in whatever we decide to do next though, and I think that's where the most value is right now.

Following a lean startup model we are iterating on what we've done so far and trying to change it for the better. The first step is with a dedicated landing page, then profiles for the tutors, and hopefully more tutors become involved.

CodeHelp!
CodeHelp site screenshot

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