Andrew Chaifetz, co-founder and CEO of Notebowl, talks with host Justin Gray about what inspired the idea for Notebowl, obstacles he’s faced since launching and his thoughts on whether higher education is doing all it can to prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn’t know I wanted to be an entrepreneur from the start. I was always very curious and would ask a lot of questions. Sometimes my parents would get annoyed, but I think I was trying to understand why we do the things that we do. That quality is probably what led me to become an entrepreneur.
What is Notebowl and what does a typical day look like for you?
Think of Notebowl as Facebook for education––what we do is combine a learning management system with a social network. It’s like Facebook in a classroom environment where you can communicate with your classmates as well as submit your assignments in a friendly user experience. Notebowl also extends beyond the classroom and lets you communicate with clubs, organizations, extracurriculars, and groups on your campus. We’re combining that entire community in one place and making it extremely social, up-to-date and modern. In terms of my typical day-to-day, there’s a lot of different things that I do, including talking to investors, discussing contract agreements with potential leads and clients, supporting our users through the platform and getting them onboarded. We wear multiple hats to get things done.
What sparked the idea for Notebowl?
The University of Arizona has a wonderful campus where everything from the student union to the rec center is state-of-the-art, but when you’d go online to the actual website you’re using for your classes and your academics, it didn’t look good. I was frustrated, thinking, “Wow. I’m spending a lot of moneyto go to this school. I’m paying for my own education. Why is this platform not up-to-date to what we use on a daily basis outside of education?” I started asking a lot of questions and then realized there was an opportunity to create something that would bring things up to speed.
How’d you jump from idea into action?
When I was doing my research, I saw that a lot of platform ideas out there took 10 years to make it into the education setting. I knew that eventually people would want this type of social experience, it was just a matter of when. I really believed in the vision.
In terms of obstacles you’ve overcome, what advice would you share with budding entrepreneurs?
The biggest challenge is just getting started and believing in yourself that you can go and do it. Then, perseverance. I think one of the hardest things is understanding that you’re going to go through that emotional roller coaster ride. Have the attitude to actually go out and meet people and network with others and know that it’s going to take a long time. It’s a long game, so don’t think short term. Also have the attitude of saying, “Hey, I might not know the answer to something, but I’m going to find the answer eventually.”
I learned early on that no one knows everything and you’re never going to know everything. Being open to learning as you go and constantly improving yourself is a big part of being an entrepreneur, as well as constantly persevering through challenges and problems that you have.
Do you think it will ever be feasible to teach entrepreneurship through a formal university program?
I know a lot of people say college is not the best place to start a company, but it gave us a four-year window to create something. It becomes a lot harder to start something after college ifyou have loans and you have to pay bills every month. You are forced to get a job and get into that corporate environment.
In terms of the classes, I think a lot of them are outdated and taught based on knowing facts and memorizing terms. I don’t believe that is as important as understanding concepts and how to problem solve.
Click here to listen to the entire podcast to find out more about Andrew Chaifetz and his journey to becoming an entrepreneur, including mentors he’s had and what he looks for in a new hire. Plus, visit notebowl.com, find Andrew on LinkedIn and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.