John Stepp, President of Free Tech Consultants, is in Austin, TX for the ITEXPO West conference. He caught up with hoot.me, the winner of last year’s StartupCamp, started by students from the University of Texas at Austin. If you have an interesting product or industry tip to share during the conference, you may reach John via Twitter @FreeTechConsult.
Entrepreneurial spirit and innovation will be on display at StartupCamp 4 tonight at the ITEXPO show in Austin, Texas. There is nothing more fun to me than checking out new and innovative tech products, especially those in the communications space. I thought it would be interesting to follow up with Michael Koetting of hoot.me, the winner of StartupCamp 3 seven months ago, to see the progress that hoot.me has made since their win.
Born and developed at UT Austin, hoot.me is currently rolling out at five universities. The hoot.me application allows students to use Facebook in “study” mode. So a student that is stumped by a biology question can seek out other students who are also in study mode to get help by clicking on a person logged into the biology study group or checking archives on biology to see if their issues has been addressed. If the issues a student is having with a particular subject cannot be easily solved, then they can hit a tutor button to access the tutor marketplace. There they can view the tutors Facebook picture, their bio, their craft score rating and the cost per time frame to choose the tutor that is best for them. They also may see a designation like the “House of Tutors” at the University of Texas that would lend credibility to the tutor. The monetization for hoot.me comes from taking a cut from the student-to-tutor transactions. Koetting said that they were currently working to ensure that the five universities where they are rolling out (including schools like UT Austin and Ohio State) attracted the tutors they needed to secure positive cash flow before expanding at the beginning of 2012.
Some of the value-added features of hoot.me for students are 8-party video embedded in Facebook, smart chat, and screen sharing. Professors can also communicate with students using hoot.me. Koetting and the hoot.me crew have been busy working with DreamIt Ventures, a startup incubator that provided additional seed capital, office space, and mentoring in New York City along with 13 other startups this summer. Following the Bill Gates model they are leaving school early to work full-time on growing and promoting hoot.me.
Koetting and his team have stayed consistent with the message that was delivered to potential investors attending StartupCamp3 and has methodically laid the groundwork for a successful company. Hoot.me has demonstrated that they were a deserving winner. It will be great to see a new set of entrepreneurs pitch their concepts at StartupCamp4.