We finally win one- at first-ever, undergrad mobile-app challenge!

Last year I coded a script that sent me a text-message whenever a vacancy occurred in one of the classes I was trying to get into.  As with most universities, mine was notorious for scheduling class registration periods at drastically early times (6:00 AM – 8:00 AM). I really didn’t want to wake up early to snipe a class that other students were competing for, so I used the script to make my life easier. It wasn’t long until my friends found out about the script and encouraged me to turn it into a service for students. Classlerts was born that spring, and I launched the website into a pre-beta phase in order to garner some user feedback.

At first I failed
As an ambitious, young entrepreneur, I wanted to scale my business into the big leagues. I decided to apply to YCombinator; a startup incubator that invests $10k-$20k in several dozen businesses every round. I didn’t have any sort of business/marketing plan or an executive summary, so in reality it was a script kiddy’s fever dream. However, I was desperate for funding and determined to put myself & my company on the map, so I applied anyways. Needless to say, YCombinator rejected my funding proposal, so I put Classlerts on hold for a few months and instead focused on co-founding a crowd-sourced video website, Viewlo.com. Once again, YCombinator summer applications opened up and we pitched our idea. We pitched like we’d never pitched before, and brought about a new energy with Viewlo. However, it just wasn’t quite enough and soon we received another rejection letter.

But then I worked
I spent the rest of summer polishing up the Classlerts website. I was determined to make it big on my own. After all, I didn’t need validation from anybody else to continue with coding. It wasn’t until the end of summer that I heard about an upcoming opportunity at my university: The Mobile App Challenge. It was obvious that Classlerts would benefit from both the competition and the development of a mobile app for smartphones, so I decided to sign-up. UC Merced was the first undergraduate campus to host a mobile app competition and it was by-far one of the best startup experiences I’ve had. Alongside my team members, Tony Belmontes and Peter Howell, I had the opportunity to meet with VC’s, talk to other entrepreneurs, and learn how to pitch & develop a product from the ground-up. It was an arduous, 6 month journey, but we learned alot and took full advantage of the program.

And it paid off.
The winners of The Mobile App Challenge were announced last Friday, and Classlerts took home the grand prize. We were both stunned and ecstatic with the results! As a reward, we received a $2,500 scholarship… which is spectacular, but for us it was never about the money. After all- we’d just started a business from scratch that helped students solve a big problem in their lives. Even though we were originally rejected by one of the top angel investment firms in the nation, we didn’t give up. We sought out our niche at the roots and found a way to shine through. The lesson to be learned here is that there are always more ways to be resourceful; you just have to continue looking for them. Much thanks to the entire Classlerts team, Career Services staff, Mobile App Challenge faculty/participants, and Classlerts beta testers. We couldn’t have done it without you.


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