Beta Byte: Okeebo

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OkeeboBeta Byte is a series underwritten by Bust Out Solutions for that early stage tech found somewhere between idea and traction.
Are you in this phase?

What is the name of the company and/or product?

Okeebo

What problem does this solve? What was the “aha” moment?

With the Okeebo platform, students can choose the level of detail for what they are reading. As a result, studying is more convenient and personalized, and students are more likely to be prepared for class.

Textbook passages are frequently more detailed than students need them to be because authors have to anticipate any question a reader might have. Students get frustrated mining through textbooks for the relevant parts, and ultimately, many students stop using them. Instructors know this happens, so valuable class time is often spent delivering information that could easily be learned from reading.

Bust Out Solutions

What is the full launch/release date planned?

The website is in open beta right now, but a full launch date is not yet set.

Who is on the team?

Ben Pedersen, Founder

What is the specific technology or combination of technologies used?

Much of the functionality is handled by self-written JavaScript code with a heavy utilization of jQuery. Other JavaScript libraries used are MathJax to render math, D3 to help render a book’s graph of its sections, and a modified version of Hammer.js for touch support.

Several other technologies power the Okeebo platform. Various html5 features are used, specifically the contenteditable attribute, which is vital to the book authoring software. Mozilla Persona is used as a login system, and Shibboleth will be used in the future so individuals can login through their universities. Finally, most of the back-end is PHP and MySQL.

What is the size/scope of your market and how will you scale?

There are 314,729 undergraduate students in Minnesota and 18.49 million in the United States.

I am currently focusing on getting a few classes to beta test the platform. Once I can demonstrate the platform works with real users, funding will be easier to acquire and worthwhile to pursue. With funding I can hire a team and increase Okeebo’s capacity.

I think Okeebo is in a fortunate position to scale, since college students particularly like sharing cool and helpful things. Therefore, making the platform really convenient and having easy mechanisms for students to tell friends and instructors, will go a long ways to generate growth.

What is your revenue model?

At the moment, there is no revenue model and books are free. An easy way to earn revenue would be to charge for books, but doing so could hinder use of the platform. For that reason, I am looking into a revenue model that would allow books to stay free and would not infringe on the user experience. There are some complexity concerns with it, and it needs more development before I am ready to discuss it publicly in any more detail.

What is your greatest strength?

A willingness to experiment.

What is your biggest weakness?

Two-sided networks are already tricky to make work, and Okeebo is essentially “three-sided” with authors, instructors, and students. This arrangement adds a lot of complexity, which as start-up you would rather minimize.

What is one resource you could use that would take this to the next level?

Graphic Design. I am currently operating without a logo, and some aesthetic tweaks to the site from a talented designer would greatly improve the legitimacy of the platform.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to read this and TECHdotMN for the opportunity to answer these questions. If you are interested in learning more about Okeebo, I encourage you to send me an email at ben@okeebo.com and to check out the demo at www.okeebo.com/demo.

You can see both the reading and writing software without signing in; and if you have any comments or questions, I would love to hear them.

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