The last decade and a half has heralded in a new age of creativity and creation. The proliferation of the personal computer, high speed Internet and technology education has opened the door for anyone with initiative to create a webpage or service. This shift has shown that the source of a good service is not corporate sponsorship but rather the college student spirit. For example, Google, Yahoo and WordPress – as well as the college student crack that is Facebook – were all created in colleges. Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page created the pre-Google search engine BackRub as a research project to index Stanford University’s library. Matt Mullenweg developed WordPress as a freshman at the University of Houston and Mark Zuckerburg famously ditched Harvard once Facebook came to maturation.
Sadly, those college days are gone. Facebook has become a bloated behemoth full of advertisements and “sticky” marketing, Google has turned away from creating products of their own in favor of corporate buyouts and WordPress has lost its reign on the “blogosphere” to Tumblr and Twitter.
Although they are incredibly profitable, they’ve lost their roots. The same tenacity that drives a college student to study into the wee hours of the morning and work multiple jobs for pennies on the dollar is the same force that makes for a great new startup. It’s determination. It’s a drive to make a name for oneself – to become more than yet another college student.
The tech giants, however, have lost that. The soul-sucking corporate attitude of perpetual growth has taken the collegiate elixir of life and squeezed out every last drop. Who cares about ease of use when more eyes can see more ads? Who cares about privacy when there’s so much money to be made selling user information?
College students do. When you’re just starting out, you have to make the best service possible or fail. Bugs and errors must be fixed post-haste. Interface and functionality must be implemented properly as fast as possible. Listening to users is the difference between sinking and swimming: big stakes, big money.
Unsurprisingly, Geneseo students have seen this light. OK, I know that seems like a bunch of clichéd, promotional hokum but here at Geneseo, it’s particularly true. In this last year alone, there have been three – yes, three – web startups that have originated in Geneseo. November 2011 saw the emergence (and disappearance) of senior Jeff Singer’s Pricemysemester.com, a service to find the prices of college textbooks. March 2012 rang in the start of a new venture, Munchful.com, a service to order food from around Geneseo for delivery or pickup.
The future also holds promise. Locally, the upcoming release of CrkBoard.com, a service to manage homework and classes, will present yet another opportunity for Geneseo entrepreneurship.
On the grander scale, 20.4 million Americans attending college every year make for countless ideas that could hit it big. If I were Google, Facebook or Yahoo, I’d take a lesson from the burgeoning ranks of potential competitors, work for users and change as quickly as possible.
Today’s tech giants are much like the Titanic: Although they’re said to be unsinkable, they will inevitably succumb to the waves of time.