During Autumn 2007, a course at Stanford University established itself as the “Facebook Class”.
The New York Times reports the students were tasked with creating an application, drawing users’ attention to it and starting the process again.
And the success that some students encountered was entirely unexpected but also thoroughly welcome.
Millions of users test drove the free applications that were crafted for Facebook. And as the applications’ popularity grew, many students began pulling in money hand over fist, in amounts that dwarfed the salaries commanded by their professors.
The Facebook Class initiated careers and fortunes of well more than 20 teachers and students while also setting a precedent.
The class created an entrepreneurship model that influenced the establishment for technology. By fulfilling assignments, members of the course kicked off the lean start-up.
“Everything was happeneing so fast,” Joachim De Lombaert told the publication. “I almost didn’t realize what it all meant.”
Now a 23-year-old, De Lombaert was part of a team that crafted an application that earned $3,000 per day. They turned it into a company and sold it for a six figures.
With a nebulous understanding, De Lombaert shared a trait with a large amount of his peers in the course. Applications on Facebook were just beginning, the iPhone was just beginning its adventure and the Android phone was about one year from making its appearance on the market.
The exercise proved to be a model for entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere: craft simple applications, rapidly send them out to the world, gauge the response and devote effort to working on them later.
The standard operating procedure that many companies have followed has gone through a long process that began with an idea, turned into a product and became a company.
No longer requiring large amounts of money, time and individuals, start-ups have evolved. During the past several years, such services have reduced costs yet generate revenue with the assistance of advertising networks.
But the advertising revenue has become a phenomenon. Some consider it a technological innovation while others are considering it a bubble preparing to burst.
The 75-member Facebook Class originally was set up as teams of three devised applications that brought on 16 million users in two-and-a-half months. Despite the periodic time-waster applications, some applications were enormously lucrative. The one De Lombaert’s team devised produced about $1 million in advertising revenue.
The course also influenced venture capitalists to adjust their strategy. Many stripped down investment funds that were perfect for the equally simple start-ups.
“A lot of the concepts and ideas that came out of the class influenced the structure of the fund that I am working on now,” Dave McClure, one course instructor and the founder of an outfit that invests in lean start-ups, told the publication. “The class was the realization that this stuff really works.”
Less than four years after that course, its lessons continue reverberating.
Among them is learning that constructing a business takes more effort than devising an application.
“Starting a company is definitely more work,” Edward Baker, partner to De Lombaert in the course and later during business dealings, told the publication.
Many students in the course benefitted exponentially. What was homework became lucrative companies for some. Others sold the businesses. Many became prepared to contribute to start-ups.
De Lombaert benefited by bringing in the largest amount of users and money, which attracted the interest of several venture capitalists.
“The class, more than anything, set the tone for us to try to start something big,” Baker, who now is the chief executive officer of a start-up he crafted with De Lombaert, told the publication.