September 17, 2008

Student Start-Up Facilitates Group Collaboration Online

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Listserves, planners and cell phones are all necessities to Cornell students. But with so much information bombarding us from all directions, digesting it often becomes difficult. So, Lance Polivy ’08 came up with a free way to streamline everything:, a free website geared toward facilitating collaboration among student groups.
Polivy took an entrepreneurship class in the Johnson School of Management during his senior year, which required students to come up with an idea for a high-growth start-up. While at Cornell Polivy served on the Interfraternity Council, played in jazz band and was a part of various sports teams. He had been frustrated that various student groups were so disjointed and wished there was a way to organize everything going on.
“We came up with Wiggio and pitched it to our professor who had investors look at it, and they got really excited about Wiggio,” Polivy said. “They said we’d be crazy not to start the website. So spring semester last year we did Wiggio as an independent study. Our advisors helped us figure out how to turn this idea into something real.”
Working with professional programmers who were equally enthusiastic about Wiggio, Polivy, along with Dana Lampert ’08, turned this dream into reality.
One of their most important sources of input came from the Cornell community.
“In order to figure out how to put this together, we reached out to a lot of students at Cornell, such as the president of the Cornell Concert Commission, the Student Assembly, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council, and the Multicultural Greek Letter Council, and used these interviews to figure out how to make the best site for college students to work in groups,” Polivy said.
Yana Bushoy ’10 was one of the students who was asked about her initial needs for Wiggio.
“[Dana Lampert] was on the board of directors for Hotelie Entrepreneurs, and would come to the meetings with very vague questions about our needs as students, the needs of organizations we are involved in, etc.,” Bushoy said. “As time went by, Dana’s questions got more specific as he’d ask for our opinions on potential aspects of the site.”
In mid-April, Polivy and Lampert launched the site’s prototype at Cornell. By May 2, 1,200 students had signed up as test users. Today, over 80 different schools are using Wiggio.
“Dana and I had job offers, but because we were so excited about the fact that 10 percent of Cornell had signed up for Wiggio, we decided to reject our job offers to work on Wiggio full time,” Polivy said.
The website boasts many original features, which Polivy said make it a popular choice at Cornell.
“The biggest things that makes Wiggio different are the mass text-messaging feature, the mass voice-messaging and the fact that you can do things like polling, file sharing and calendars all from one place. We bring all the features you would need to work in a college group and put them in one place,” Polivy said.
Katherine Crotty ’09 was particularly appreciative of Wiggio’s text messaging feature.
“Katherine texted me saying ‘Hey! I’m loving Wiggio. Just got a text about a location change as I was walking to the wrong location. Sweet! Thanks!’” Polivy said.
Another feature Polivy described is conference calling. On Wiggio, a group can sign up for a conference call where all members are given a dial number and passcode to a free teleconferencing company.
Elizabeth Rapoport ’09, chair of last year’s Slope Day Programming Board has found Wiggio extremely useful.
“I used it most effectively as a replacement for Blackboard for the statistics class that I was a Teaching Assistant for. This year we are also piloting the use of Wiggio in the general body of Rock and Wrap it Up!, a food recovery group, and the executive boards of the Cornell Concert Commission and the Slope Day Programming Board,” Rapoport said.
The features Rapoport likes best include the calendar feature and the polling.
“This calendar will compile all of the dates that you add for any organization and color-code them on one page. The polling feature is useful in getting quick questions across when sending 20 emails is not a productive option,” Rapoport said.
Bushoy, who is in four Wiggio groups, found the website to be most effective for managing clubs.
“The folder option is extremely helpful. I upload all the files we use for Hotelie Entrepreneurs so all the members and the Board have access to it all. That way I don’t have to keep emailing people files they lose,” Bushoy said. “It eliminates the need for a listserve.”
“Wiggio is an easy way to manage all the groups you are part of in college on one simple website,” Polivy said.
The simplicity of the website is key to Polivy. He wanted to make sure that the least tech-savvy person in a group could use the website, so on Wiggio everything is outlined in steps.
Though the website may look simple, everything was meticulously planned, even down to the name.
“W-I-G stands for Working in Groups which is what we’re about and the gio is something we tagged on to make it sound cool,” Polivy said.