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talk to his wife, who runs the CK-12 Foundation. They were exploring a peer tutoring network, and we were doing exactly that. So we went in to CK-12 and pitched Stoodle to her and she absolutely loved it. She provided the funding we needed to get off the ground.”
Since then, the three students have been working on Stoodle during their summer and weekend time—but it’s a squeeze, since all three are also active in sports and other extracurricular activities. Mehta rows crew, Mangat was varsity soccer captain, and Gupta tutors students in calculus, writing, and programming and volunteers at San Jose’s Tech Museum.
Mehta’s team had an early version of Stoodle up and running by the summer of 2012, but there was a problem. To get the prototype done faster—the better to gain early user feedback—they’d built the collaborative whiteboard using Adobe’s Flash technology. But that meant the app wouldn’t work on Apple’s iPad or other iOS devices. So this summer, they rebuilt the app from the ground up, using HTML5 so that the whiteboard would work in the Web browsers on any laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
The HTML5 version of Stoodle went live in August, and users have created more than 1,000 private classrooms so far, Mehta says. Other learning management systems used by schools and colleges, such as Blackboard or Moodle, can include interactive whiteboards, but most of them are based on Flash, and they’re usually controlled by schools or teachers, meaning they aren’t available to students on demand, Mehta says.
“We’ve seen students from a lot of high schools around the Bay Area, but also Alabama, Milwaukee, and Mississippi, without even promoting it at all,” he says. Well, almost not at all: the startup has recruited about 60 volunteer student “community leaders” who act as Stoodle evangelists at their schools and colleges.
Mehta concedes that it might take a while for the idea of real-time collaborative whiteboarding to take hold among students around the country or the world, especially in communities that lack adequate access to computers, touchscreen devices, and the Internet. “It will take time to distribute the technology and get to ‘one laptop per child,’ and schools are very slow to adopt technology,” he says. “But once it does get there, it could have a tremendous impact.”
And Mehta points out that students are already turning to their friends for homework help every night on networks like Skype and Facebook. “We are building on top of an existing use case and just making that interaction easier,” he says.
How does the team plan to keep building Stoodle as a company once Mehta and Gupta are also in college? “I haven’t given much thought to that,” Mehta says. “I can see myself remaining active with this for a while, but I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
One of the schools Mehta would like to attend is Stanford. Though the famously entrepreneur-friendly school admitted just 6.6 percent of applicants in 2012, Mehta’s chances would seem to be excellent. Even in Silicon Valley, few high-school seniors can say in their college applications that they sold their first company for almost $200 million.