ClassOwl startup integrated into CourseWork

Oct. 7, 2013, 2:27 a.m.

ClassOwl, a startup founded by Julienne Lam ‘13 and Sam Purtill ‘13, recently became integrated into CourseWork with the goal of tackling scheduling problems by examining class schedules and course evaluations.

“[During] my freshman year at Stanford, it was very overwhelming adjusting to your new environment and not really know how to navigate the whole system,” Lam said.

Courtesy of Julienne Lam.
Courtesy of Julienne Lam.

ClassOwl aggregates a student’s classes and allows students and professors to keep track of all assignments. Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and University Registrar Thomas Black provided ClassOwl with the official course evaluation data collected by Stanford at the end of each quarter.

“I became interested in seeing if I could help them think through the kinds of things that they would offer in the application,” Black said.

Black sent out an email to students last week notifying the integration of ClassOwl into CourseWork.

“I thought it was something that was missing in the present iteration of CourseWork, and, quite frankly, [the founders of ClassOwl] did too,” Black said.

Like many other startups, ClassOwl’s story began with paper prototyping.

“We started off with paper prototypes,” Lam said. “[It’s] something that you only see in movies—like playing on whiteboards and using chalk and such.”

After prototyping the product’s features and examining the company’s branding, the team launched the pilot version of ClassOwl in 2012 to gather user feedback.

“We held focus groups with professors—about 30 different Stanford professors and maybe about 50 different Stanford students to see how they interacted with the site,” Lam said.

Courtesy of Julienne Lam.
Courtesy of Julienne Lam.

In the summer of 2011, ClassOwl participated in StartX, a nonprofit startup incubator, which provided them with not only office space and legal assistance, but also a community of mentors across different areas, Lam added. During its time in the incubator, the company signed its first contract with the University.

The development period for ClassOwl began in February 2012, and the product was released to students just two months later. According to Lam, 1,200 students signed up for the application during the first four weeks.

“We were also all in school at the time,” Lam said. “Essentially, it like was a full-time job on top of a full-time job.”

Since releasing the product to the market by selling the contract in August, the team has continued to develop the product and collect user feedback.

So far, on-campus reviews have been positive.

“The No. 1 thing that we’ve received in terms of feedback is that it’s extremely intuitive and easy-to-use and simple,” Lam said.

Student user Chris Barber ‘16 has been an advocate for ClassOwl ever since it launched.

“To me ClassOwl is just a huge time-saver,” Barber said. “People maybe don’t realize how much they’re trying to keep in their heads, and it’s nice when you have it all down and you don’t have to worry about what’s coming up.”

Beyond the farm, ClassOwl is launching its first high school pilot at a public school in Los Angeles along with its mobile application, which will be available within the next month. Meanwhile, it has also partnered with Pearson, the largest education book publishing company in the world, to expand its user base.

“Working with Pearson, we’re hoping that we can get ClassOwl into the hands of every student in the United States,” Lam said.

Black believes that ClassOwl has the potential to follow in the footsteps of other successful Stanford startups.

“I would love to see them vastly successful,” Black said.

“We’ve had a couple of student groups, as a result of some of the applications they’ve written, become successful—such as the terribly clever team that developed iStanford,” he added. “That just is so Stanford, it seems. So I’d like to see ClassOwl equally successful.”


Contact Kylie Jue at kyliej ‘at’

Kylie Jue '17 was the Editor-in-Chief for Vol. 250. She first became involved with The Daily as a high school intern and now is a CS+English major at Stanford. A senior from Cupertino, California, she has also worked a CS 106 section leader. To contact Kylie, email her at kyliej ‘at’

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