Students create BoilerWiki, allow peers to review and rate assorted components of college experience
Who they are
When Seattle-native Dimitri Sogomonyan met India-born Shashank Munjal at Boiler Gold Rush new-student orientation four years ago, both freshmen found themselves asking the same question: Where’s a good restaurant to take a girl out in this strange new place called Purdue?
As their friendship grew, so did the number of questions they had about University living. What professors are the most engaging? Which classes are most enjoyable? What bars have the best drink specials? Aside from asking their friends, the duo felt like they had few resources to seek out feedback and recommendations, so they decided to create their own.
What they're doing
In the fall of 2011, Sogomonyan and Munjal built BoilerWiki.com, a website that chronicles the collective college experiences of those who contribute to the site. While anyone can explore BoilerWiki content, only individuals with a purdue.edu email address can create and edit pages. After completing a simple registration process, members of the Purdue community also can rate and review topics related to campus living, such as professors, classes, restaurants and apartments. It’s even possible to upload up to two images for each entry.
In the first two weeks after the website went live, BoilerWiki had more than 2,000 ratings, and that number has continued to grow along with the site’s user numbers. The seniors are now working with University Bookstore, which has purchased advertising space, and are networking with other local business owners to build a revenue stream. An article published in the Purdue Exponent in January of 2012 helped get the word out.
How they got there
Because of the minimal overhead and cost involved in developing a website, the team invested about $1,000 from their personal funds for domain space and marketing materials. To get started, Sogomonyan watched World Wide Web Schools tutorials, which are geared toward individuals with basic programming skills and little experience with Web design. They hosted the site on a Linux server and used open source, free MySQL for its database. Once the website structure was in place, the team contacted a few University departments to collect a list of available courses and professors, but their requests were denied. As a result, Sogomonyan wrote a piece of software that allowed him to amass the data from catalogs on the myPurdue system and transferred it to BoilerWiki.
While Sogomonyan leveraged skills he learned by taking courses in Purdue’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, the duo also did a lot of research online and even filed their limited liability company (LLC) paperwork online, choosing LLC because of its simple structure that combines the advantages of a corporation’s limited liability with single taxation of a general partnership.
"Start as soon as you can," Munjal says. "So many people hesitate to act on their ideas because they feel they don’t know enough, or don’t have enough time or money. We spent three years talking about various ideas before we pursued one, and everything we’ve learned so far has been well worth it."