Taking Notes: A Conversation with Mike Matousek of Flashnotes.com
Unless you have a friend who is dedicated to taking amazingly detailed notes, missing class can oftentimes mean missing out on important information from that day's lesson. Some educators post their lecture notes online, but that may not include any extra material they covered that day, nor any special notations you might have included to help you when looking back at the notes for later study.
Mike Matousek has created a website to address this very problem. Flashnotes.com helps students find lecture notes and other study materials produced by peers around the country. I spoke to Matousek about his educational background, his company, and how Flashnotes is inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.
"I've always had a passion for business -- and numbers always came easily to me. The concentrations I chose seemed like a natural fit."
It was his talent for numbers that gave Matousek the idea to start Flashnotes.
"My idea for the Internet business came about during a statistics class my junior year of college...where many of the students struggled to understand the professor's ethereal lectures. I happened to excel in the course which prompted my classmates to ask for my study notes and for homework help.
"I started selling my study notes for $10 dollars apiece and quickly made over $1000. With this I saw the need for education tools that supplement traditional modes of education. With the help of friends, professors and fellow classmates I gathered other students' study materials from more classes and launched Flashnotes.com."
Today, the service is flourishing among students and their schools, as the platform "saw 175 percent growth in 2013 and is available at every college and university across the country."
Matousek sees two major benefits that students can take away from the service.
"On Flashnotes.com, college students can sell and buy course specific study materials. College students need two things: more money and better grades. Flashnotes' Pay2Study approach empowers smart college students to make money from their own study material while helping other students study smarter to get better grades."
Not only can students buy and sell course notes, Flashnotes offers them the chance to buy and sell video tutorials, live video help, flashcards, and full study guides. This gives students access to both an extra revenue source and resources that can improve their grades.
Student demand has been instrumental in bringing Flashnotes to an expanding list of colleges and universities. In fact, some aspiring entrepreneurs are even working directly with the company, gaining valuable professional experience in the process.
"Last semester, we hired more than 25 Chief Operating Officers (COOs) at college campuses across the U.S. to run Flashnotes.com at their school, which also gave these students a chance to get first-hand experience with running their own business. From writing a business plan to hiring on-campus employees to marketing the business, these COOs are getting entrepreneurial experience outside of the classroom. This not only helps foster the entrepreneurial instincts of these students -- but helps get the word out about Flashnotes.com on campus."
Students can also offer feedback about the platform, helping Matousek and his team iterate toward a better product.
"We are always looking for student feedback on the study materials available on Flashnotes. To ensure that study materials contain original, high-quality content, we have an in-house team that reviews and monitors the materials uploaded by students. Additionally, students have access to a preview of the notes, flashcards, and video tutorials before they decide to purchase -- and if they're not satisfied, Flashnotes offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee. Student sellers are also rated by a number of stars and by comments -- and once a student has 10+ sales of their study materials, they become a 'Preferred Seller.' And according to Flashnotes.com's recent Student Experience Survey among its users, 94 percent of students who purchased course-related materials saw an improvement in their grade for that particular class."
As students continue to push for the platform at their colleges and universities, Flashnotes has begun adding educational influencers to its staff.
"Just last month, Kent State University President Lester A. Lefton joined our board of directors. Lefton -- who is retiring from Kent State in July -- is the first academic administrator to join the company, and we are very committed to gaining this type of academic support and to working directly with educators and administrators in higher ed to foster change via peer-learning. Our team has also recently formed an Academic Advisory Board with seven members from colleges and universities across the U.S."
Whether you are looking to take advantage of your extraordinary note-taking talents to make a bit of money, or just need help studying for a course, Flashnotes could be a great solution. A business model that benefits students in a myriad of ways? Future entrepreneurs, take note.
Interview with Mike Matousek, Co-founder and CEO of Flashnotes.com, conducted June 17, 2014