• 12.17.13

Distance Coworking? These Teens Made An App For That

With in-browser and iPad support, this draw, chat, and microphone-supported coworking site is simple but powerful.

Distance Coworking? These Teens Made An App For That
[Image: Flickr user Ralph Hogaboom]

Education technology is a profit gambit: Shrinking budgets and scattered education standards means education tech innovations are increasingly rare and schools end up with outdated tools (if they get them at all). So it’s perfect that three California teens built work-sharing technology that they would find useful–by students, for students–and that’s just the sort of thing that catches Silicon Valley’s eye.

Stoodle Demo

Now 17, founder Arjun Mehta was inspired when he transferred from public school to a private prep academy in San Jose, CA. The difference in resources was astounding.

“Private-school kids have access to a much better quality of education and access to more resources,” Mehta told XConomy. “I saw the potential to share information and knowledge between schools. What if I could connect students from this school to students from my old school and get some interaction going?”

Mehta partnered with classmate Divyahans Gupta (both are now seniors at the prep academy) and Simar Mangat, now a freshman at Stanford. Together, they made Stoodle, a coworking program that’s sleek and simple. Mehta’s a bit of an old hand at the startup game, having made PlaySpan, an online marketplace for MMO items, when he was 12 with his father. (PlaySpan was bought by Visa in 2011 for a reputed $190 million.)

There are a handful of chat programs that have a whiteboard feature, like Microsoft’s Lync, but most of Stoodle’s collaborative drawing predecessors have been in-browser apps like FlockDraw that let you drop links to let your friends into instanced rooms, no sign-in required. But Stoodle really shines compared to earlier coworking sites like Twiddla by focusing on the collaboration: Microphone access is integrated with voice chat via Twilio and you can drop in photos from anywhere–even a laptop’s front-facing camera. Plus, it’s usable on the iPad, a welcome feature for the drawing-intensive app.

The system’s polish is to be expected, as its board of advisors include the educational nonprofit CK-12 Foundation’s executive director, an assistant dean at Stanford, the managing director of the Harvard Innovation Lab, and a professor emeritus from MIT.

It’s safe to say that Stoodle was well-nurtured by the tech-incubation of Palo Alto, but low-cost educational innovation is critical for growth–especially when it’s the students doing the innovating. For now, Stoodle is free to use thanks to the CK-12 Foundation, which is covering server costs.