August 9, 2013
When Emerson Walker, a 14-year-old Cincinnatian forgot his day planner one day, he looked at his iPad and wondered why there was no solution. While most kids would have stopped there, Emerson began building mPlanner, a mobile planner that works on smartphones and tablets. It automatically pulls in assignments and other events from schools’ web portals, allowing students to aggregate and categorize them into specific activities on their digital planners.
Today’s high school students have challenging schedules. Not only do they balance more scholastic, athletic, and social obligations with each passing year, but they also have to collect all of this information from various digital sources and calendars. Sometimes information may be posted on a web platform like Blackboard. Other times it may be posted on their fridge at home (e.g. soccer practice and doctor appointment). Along with their smartphones and tablets, many kids carry a paper day planner with them so they can integrate all the various calendars and assignments into one place. These paper calendars are flimsy and often are destroyed as they are carried and shuffled in backpacks and lockers.
Emerson first pitched his idea at the most recent Startup Weekend Cincinnati. He won both the Judges’ Vote and the Popular Vote. As part of his prize, he was awarded office space at Cintrifuse, a national innovation network based in Cincinnati. Once there, he immediately launched a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to fund the development of mPlanner. Within three weeks, his campaign of $5,000 was fully funded (disclosure: I am a backer). With each success, Emerson seems to be adapting and creating a grander vision for his startup.
Based on some of the responses to his Kickstarter campaign, Emerson announced that he would open source the development. As Emerson stated on his blog, “Many developers have offered to support me by helping to develop some aspect of the system, rather than simply contribute financially. So we have made a decision to open source the entire system to maximize the opportunity for community involvement.” Along with the help from the open source crowd, he is also working with The INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati who works with high school programmers in an effort to foster a stronger and more sustainable tech community in the region.
The website has been built, and development is already underway. The initial revenue model will be to charge a nominal subscription fee of around $10 and market to middle and high school families.
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