From Course to Concept

Duke students took an innovative software idea to the Start-Up Challenge

du_hatch_web.jpg
The DUhatch provides resources for Duke student entrepreneurs.

Some startups are driven by a single founder, but the idea
for a software program that helps students select courses came from an entire
class.

A dozen Duke students developed the concept --a personalized
system for suggesting courses the way Amazon.com suggests books -- last fall as
a project for the electrical and computer engineering course "Organizing
Databases" with Professor Lawrence Carin. The following spring, eight of
them signed up for an independent study with Carin to continue working on the
idea. This past summer, three of the students --Samuel Baek, Hui Gao and Tommy
Xu --interned in Carin's lab to further research the concept, drawing upon
resources from the Pratt School's DUhatch entrepreneurship center to develop a
business plan.

"Everyone in their own way emerged as a leader and I
don't think we could have done that sitting in a classroom and learning the
material," said Baek, a senior electrical and computer science engineering
major from Nashville, Tenn. "We had to get our hands dirty and try to deal
with the product and deal with the people and actually try to produce
something."

The idea won an audience-choice award in the fall 2010
Start-Up Challenge. (Watch
the "elevator pitch.
")