By Peggy Binette, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-777-7704
Chase Mizzell and Rishi Patel are two juniors on cloud nine.
At the end of March the pair launched CloudShouts, an app for phone and web that aims to connect people on the University of South Carolina’s campus in a new way.
“We want to bring our community to life and increase community in ways technology hasn’t been able to before,” says Mizzell, an international business major and student body president.
CloudShouts, a hyper-local social media platform, is location based. People geographically located within the area of a cloud can use the service to participate in that community by posting shout outs, classifieds, events, photos and polls.
Unlike Facebook, which connects friends and family regardless of where they live, CloudShouts connects people who are in a specific geographic area.
“When users participate, it is a representation of the conversation on campus. We’re essentially crowdsourcing the conversation at USC,” Mizzell says.
CloudShouts was the brainchild of Patel, a computer science major, and Ian Castovinci, a finance major, who graduated in December. They came up with the idea for the app in the winter of 2011.
“Initially, we envisioned a big thought bubble where our entire Gamecock community could come together to share ideas. It would keep students updated with the community around them, the people outside their friend circle,” Patel says.
Mizzell was added to help shape the idea, help with beta testing and connect the team to resources. Joel Stevenson at the USC Instigator, part of the Faber Entrepreneurship Center, was a key source. Stevenson gave the students advice and connected them with the creative teams at Columbia’s Mad Monkey and Dust of the Ground who helped with the website and a video.
The CloudShouts app is free for iPhone, Android and web.
Mizzell says he is surprised by how people are using it beyond socializing. He says students are posting subleases for the summer because “they trust the community as being for Carolinians.” “It’s interesting to watch our community. You learn what’s important to people and see their contributions and how they leave their mark on the community,” Mizzell says.
With USC’s cloud community up, it’s bright skies ahead for the team. They’re working with local businesses on and around campus to offer deals targeted to the campus cloud. They’ve added business students Krut Patel and Rohan Rajeev to help with sales.
Patel says CloudShouts also can help students target their classmates. “It’s useful, whether you’re looking for a new roommate or selling your physics book. Craigslist is simply too broad,” he says.
While they build participation in USC’s cloud – currently 1,120 people – the CloudShouts team is looking to build similar clouds at other universities, possibly in South Carolina and at Southeastern Conference institutions. They also are considering clouds for local attractions like Riverbanks Zoo and temporary clouds for large scale community events and conferences.
“It’s really a matter of drawing the geographic boundaries and determining the parameters or features. Then it’s a matter of promoting its availability to the community,” Mizzell says. Down the road, users of CloudShouts will see the various cloud communities available to them as they move or travel.
Patel says he’s learned the ups and downs of a young startup.
“You’re never giving up, always moving forward and building the right team to make your ideas into something real. Making a conceptual idea into reality is a learning process,” Patel says.
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