‘Startup in Seattle’ Lands BVU students at Google, Microsoft, Amazon and More

Professors joined a BVU alum in leading students during the three-week experience, where students worked to develop a mobile app from a working prototype.

Six BVU computer science majors joined two professors and a recent alumnus in traveling the Pacific Northwest during J-term, focused on developing a software application that may be deployed soon on campus and in Storm Lake.

Dr. Nathan Backman, associate professor of computer science, and Dr. Anton Bezuglov, associate professor of data analytics, joined Luke Anderson ’15 in leading students on a 3-week "Startup in Seattle" experience, where students worked to develop "What’s Good Here?" an application for which Anderson created a working prototype for his senior capstone project four years ago. The app shows restaurants in your area and displays customer ratings and reviews on individual menu items for categories such as portion size, price, and quality of food.

"Our students earned experience in teamwork, design process, and project management and now will continue to develop the app in hopes of taking it live this spring."

Dr. Nathan Backman

The idea had merit during Anderson’s time as a student at BVU, but the graduate tabled it as he dove into work for QCI (Quality Consultants Inc.) as an automation test engineer based at Pioneer in Johnston, Iowa.

After six students earned positions as Stine Fellows on the "Startup in Seattle" J-term roster, Backman solicited ideas for a start-up they could build and demonstrate to industry contacts and BVU alumni working in and around Seattle. Students immediately latched on to Anderson’s idea and revived it through a series of Tuesday evening meetings in the fall in which Anderson participated via Skype. During this time in the fall semester, the team developed a minimum, viable version of "What’s Good Here?" that they were able to take to Seattle, where they would finish implementing additional features while using and testing the app.

"I was thrilled to be called and to have a role in the app’s development," Anderson says. "After you’ve been out of school and working for a few years you see how the technology being developed in the classroom is actually being used. I was very impressed with the talent and knowledge shown by the current students."

BVU’s School of Science Stine Endowment provided funding for the entire 18-day experience in addition to offering seed money for the students’ company. Seniors Drew Beall and Garrett Beebe joined juniors Kayle Heideman and Michael Martin and sophomores Nicholas Birks and Tyler Freese in this second such "World of Science" course made possible via the Stine Endowment.

Students maintained a daily blog throughout the "Startup in Seattle" experience, detailing programming challenges and successes as well as highlights from visits to firms like Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe, Nike and Google, and sites such as Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains and more.

"This was such a great experience for our students and an alumnus who is still participating in the start-up," Backman said. "Our students earned experience in teamwork, design process, and project management and now will continue to develop the app in hopes of taking it live this spring."

The goal is to one day incorporate a company consisting of the "Startup in Seattle" team as co-founders to launch the "What’s Good Here?" app to the public.