By Jeffrey Swindoll
Three Baylor entrepreneurs have decided to change the way college students study. Adanote.com, created by three Baylor students, is an online collaborative platform that allows students to upload, share and study notes together online in a unique, social interface.
Baylor students can log on, create an account for free. They can find other students taking the same classes as them and view notes created by them online.
The website is using Baylor for its beta testing, but the goal of the website is to be available for all universities.
Longview senior Graham VanDusen, Round Rock senior Michael Heath and Fort Worth junior Josh Stralko met each other last spring and have worked to develop the website ever since.
Heath, company chief operating officer, VanDusen, company chief financial officer and Stralko, company chief marketing officer, are each part of Baylor’s Accelerated Ventures Program, an innovative two-semester program that funds students to start real companies and create products.
“At first I thought we should make a textbook conglomerate,” VanDusen said. “We wanted to stay in the college education market, and slowly but surely we pivoted towards note-sharing and online collaboration.”
Heath said the vision of the site goes beyond Baylor’s campus. He said the company has intentions of gradually growing to be the best source for collaborative studying everywhere.
“Right now we’re working on gaining a foothold at Baylor,” Heath said. “Once we have that, then we’re going to start step-stoning to the other schools like UT, TCU and so on.”
VanDusen said the website’s premise is based on its ability to successfully deliver a large network effect.
“It’s cool, but it’s not that cool until everyone is using it,” VanDusen said. “The only value for the notes is if everybody is posting notes, so our major issue is giving people incentive to upload their notes.”
Heath and VanDusen feel Adanote’s edge over its competitors is the social connectivity of the site.
“Other online study sites don’t have a social tool or direction to the site, so we hope that the social aspect will be the niche that catches on,” VanDusen said.
The site will also soon have the feature to rate materials and users. Based on those ratings, the site will reward users with cash prizes or additional site features.
“We want to reward those users because they’re essentially the ones giving value to the site,” VanDusen said.
Much like Spotify and other sites that have free and premium-access user options, Adanote will soon have a subscription format.
“Basically, the model that we’re going with is a subscription-based model,” VanDussen said. “That means, we’re going to offer everything that our competition offers for free, but for an additional subscription fee, we’re going to offer those users special features.”
VanDusen said Adanote.com will be developed for smartphone compatibility, and one of the premium features for paying users will be optical character recognition.
Students will be able to write notes on their phone or tablet with their finger or a stylus and their notes will be saved on their Adanote profile immediately.
“We want to build it out almost from a social platform,” VanDusen said. “The site is not to find out what people are doing, but it’s to encourage collaboration. It’s going to be social but it’s not going to be like Facebook.”
They started working on the site in May and worked throughout the summer, eventually launching the website on Sept. 10.
“We’ve got about 300 people for the three weeks or so that it’s been open,” Heath said. “There’s a feedback tag on the footer where lots of students have told us things they like about the site and also some things that need improvement.”
The company is interested in maintaining a site that does not encourage irresponsibility and procrastination.
“We want to stray away from that type of culture as much as we can,” VanDusen said. “You don’t go on our website to cheat. You go on there to study, and we really want to create that culture — collaborate and conquer.”
He said Adanote has intentions of keeping a website that does not allow test answers or other forms of cheating to be available through the site.
“The policy is that the materials must be user-generated and user-created,” VanDussen said. “For the test banks and similar materials, we’ll have a flagging system where students can flag if something like that shows. We’ll be able to track the items that are flagged, and as soon as something is flagged we’re going to have it removed.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been edited from its original version.