When college gives you lemons…


lemonaidIf you’ve attended a large university, then surely you know how sprawling the student body can be.

Tens of thousands of students may share the same campus, but as natural segmentation occurs, it’s inevitable to self organize around majors, schedules, roommates and clubs.

Chances are you’ll never meet or know most of your peers.

Which is why Lemonaid launched this week — to connect students from across different silos within a university, allowing them to form teams working toward a similar goal. That goal, says company founder Cory Etzkorn, can really be anything, from a class project to a startup company to a new band.

Etzkorn recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Graphic Design, which he put to use by creating the website on his own. He said that during his time at the 50,000-student university, he found himself wishing there was an easier way to access people with different specialties.

“I realized that it’s really important to have a solid group to work with,” Etzkorn explains. “It was hard to find the perfect people because I was so used to being around the same people all the time for my major. So I thought it would be cool if there was a way to find other people who want to work on projects and are interested in different things.”

The company’s name stems from the concept of a lemonade stand, with the idea being that you need different people with different abilities to make it run. One person must brew the refreshments, one person must sell them, one person must market them, one person must track all the proceeds, etc.

Lemonaid website

Lemonaid is a free service and the interface is similar to Craigslist, in that you create a listing – by filling out a project title, brief, description, estimated time commitment and talent needed ­– then wait for interested parties to contact you.

Etzkorn says that his platform is superior to Craigslist for these purposes because it gives you access to a very specific demographic: students at your own college. You sign up using your university email address and are immediately grouped only with those who attend the same school.

Because he’s been able to launch the site without enlisting outside help, the project (which started as an honors thesis a year and a half ago) hasn’t cost Etzkorn much other than his time. As such, he’s not terribly concerned about monetizing the venture at this point, though he sees promoted projects and sponsorships as possibilities down the line. Right now, he just wants to spread the word and get people using it in the upcoming semester, when it will be available at eight different major universities including his alma mater.

Etzkorn says that the platform’s greatest challenge is also its greatest strength: it forces people to put serious thought into their project or endeavor. It’s one thing to post a Facebook status informing people that you’re thinking about starting a company or band; it’s another thing entirely to put in all the planning work required to create a listing on Lemonaid.

“People might be a little intimidated,” he says, “but it will help them actually commit to their ideas.”