STORY BY SARAH MONDELLO
One winter break, four college students gathered together in a basement to brainstorm a way to make money.
It was Ethan Turner, a sophomore radio/television producing and writing major, who first came up with the original idea of using panoramic video.
The group soon reached a consensus that this idea would not work, but they eventually came up with a new use for video.
“We realized there was not a way of connecting people around the world faster than video,” Turner said. “What’s faster than video? Live-streaming video.”
The inspiration surfaced in November 2013, and for six weeks these young men worked to create the idea for an app that would bring live video streaming into the realm of social media.
This app would later be named Glimpse.
Today, the five members of Glimpse include Drake students Ethan Turner, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Johnathan Osifuye-White, Chief Finance Officer (CFO), two students from the University of Pittsburgh named Emeka Ukaga, Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Madhur Malhotra, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and one student from a community college in Minnesota named Chris Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
Glimpse was one of five winners of $10,000 in funding out of 18 applicants for the Lorentzen Student Hatchery entrepreneurship program.
The Hatchery was founded to encourage students to start their own businesses.
The program funds a few select student startups each summer in the hopes that these endeavors will one day grow into larger business investments.
There’s only a handful of programs like this in the country, said Thomas Swartwood, assistant director of the Entrepreneurship Center.
“To be in business, you need to sell something,” Swartwood said. “You don’t have to necessarily make money, but it needs to go beyond just ideas and dreams. This is a do, not a think about, program. And that’s what I think is particularly valuable about it. It’s not an academic thing, there’s no tests, you don’t have to turn in any homework. We will help students along the way, but they have to find their way.”
Chris Snider, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is familiar with Turner’s business endeavor Glimpse as his academic adviser.
“They knew the thing to do at the right time to do it, so I think that’s more than luck,” Snider said. “I think they’re pretty sharp guys. I don’t think this will be the last app we’ll see from this group of students. So even if this one gets out there and doesn’t hit it big, what they’re gonna learn from doing this is probably more valuable than what they’re learning in most of their classes.”
Debra Bishop, director of Pappajohn and Buchanan Entrepreneurship Centers, became acquainted with Turner and Osifuye-White through the Drake chapter of Enactus, an international entrepreneurial organization dedicated to linking students with business leaders. She is the faculty adviser, and Turner is the current president.
“Our entrepreneurial environment at Drake is growing across campus and we’re seeing more and more students getting involved in entrepreneurship beyond the walls of the Business College,” Bishop said. “I think this is a good catalyst for them. They’ve got the drive and motivation to make it be successful, but I think they’ve got an entrepreneurial mindset that is going to be very good for them, not just for this app, but in whatever endeavors they go into.”
Swartwood admits that he wasn’t immediately hooked by the idea. It took several conversations for him to see the potential for Glimpse.
“I think apps are tricky to turn into businesses,” Swartwood said. “They made a very good presentation about how this was different and how it could be utilized. This idea of using the globe as the starting point seemed like a clever entree. And, more than just a fun and good idea, it is one – and this is often not the case with apps – I can see that they will have a variety of ways to monetize it.”
Instead of the traditional scrolling news feed, live stream posts will be integrated into a 3D globe interface. Glimpse users will be able to connect with people around the world up to the third degree (a friend of a friend of a friend). There will be three feeds/globes to choose from: personal (user uploaded videos), perspective (watching others’ videos) and commercial (advertisements). Developing the commercial feed is next on Glimpse’s to-do list, which will be geared more toward consumer-controlled advertising. For example, it will be an easy way for business travelers or tourists to discover what is going on in the places they wish to visit, and also as a news source for journalists.
In this respect, Turner calls himself a “social pioneer.”
“I see myself starting things that will help to change society or help to progress society, so that’s what I have a passion for,” he said.
None of the Glimpse founders have a formal skillset in computer science, so the company is hiring a developer to create the app from their design plans.
“It really opens up the playing field for people who have great ideas but don’t have the ability to physically make it themselves,” Turner said.
“It’s just a matter of one person knowing how to do it, and then bringing that person onto the team to have something that could potentially change the world.”
In a recent five-minute scenario-based survey asking people if they would use the app, Glimpse received a 79 percent favorable response.
“I think I would obtain the app,” Mary Piegors said, a responder to the survey. “And I might use it once or twice, but I don’t usually record events in my life. I would probably tune in mostly to other people’s events.”
Some believe that Glimpse could be the next big thing.
“It sounds like a cool way to kind of see what’s going on with people,” another responder Emma Folke said. “Some of my friends have recently been doing some things and I’ve been like, ‘oh, it’d be kind of cool to actually see what they’re experiencing,’ and so this sounds like a way that you could do that.”
The Glimpse app will become available this summer, both for Apple and Android products in the Apple and Google Play stores.
The app has already been exposed on an international level to 13 countries, and Turner hopes that its first 1,000 to 5,000 beta users are this diverse.
He welcomes anyone who is interested and would actively use the app to sign up as a beta user.
After these initial users, the app will then be opened up to the public. Interested individuals can learn more about Glimpse and sign up to become a beta user at www.glimpse.global.
Turner’s goal is for Glimpse to be the next big social media movement, but he is aware that this doesn’t happen overnight.
“I need to do the work in order to see it happen.”