Launching Apps and Careers- in the Classroom

In what became known as the "Facebook Class," a group of students at Stanford University were given repeated homework assignments of devising applications and getting people to use them. Not knowing the phenomenon they were about to create, the students, from the fall of 2007 class, ended up getting millions of users for the free apps they had designed to run on Facebook. As those apps gained popularity and began to run on advertising, the students started cashing in on those creations, some of them even making far more money than their professors, according to an article posted in The New York Times.

In what seemed liked an overnight operation, the class started the careers and fortunes of more than two dozen students and teachers. It also helped to get the ball rolling on a new type of entrepreneurship that has upturned the tech establishment – the lean start-up. According to the students, everything happened quickly and some of the student team’s apps netted $3,000 a day, morphing into a company that sold for a six-figure sum later. The students hardly even knew what was going on and how it blew up so fast, but they weren’t about to complain. At that time, cell phone users weren’t able to download every application available to their phones for personal use, so Facebook applications cornered the market and were a huge hit.

But with professors teaching students to build simple apps with the intention of getting them out quickly and perfecting them later, the students happened on what has now become a standard operating procedure for a new generation of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. With open-source software and lower "cloud" servicing costs, the long journey to build a product and a company has since become a much shorter one. The Facebook class knows first hand about the journey to a new wave of technology innovation. The 75 students, working in teams of 3, created apps that garnered 16 million users in just 10 weeks. The apps, most of which were silly ones, such as awarding "hotness" points to friends, were free for users but generated about $1 million in advertising revenue.

With the success of apps on Facebook, many entrepreneurs decided to work on apps. While not of all them were a success, the ones that were helped to expand the number of Facebook users to nearly 700 million worldwide. Now, four years later, some of the students that have started their own companies say that building a business is much harder than creating an app. Many of the students sold their applications to businesses, some have joined successful start-ups, and others have started their own start-ups. Either way, the class was highly successful and paved the way for a number of start-ups and have possibly changed the journey to opening a new business in the field.

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