Computer science students explore business world, become entrepreneurs

BYU students combine software development training with business strategies projects in CS 405. (Photo illustration by Hannah Miner)

BYU computer science students learn to apply business strategies to the creation and development of their own software ideas to better prepare them for future careers in a computer science class “Creating and Managing a Software Business.”

In CS 405, Diogo Myrrha and Craig Earnshaw instruct mostly senior computer science majors and “hope to give them the skills they will need to start their own business,” Earnshaw said.

The class allows them to brainstorm good product ideas and understand how they can turn them into real business plans.

Earnshaw and Myrrha instruct the students to share the product with real potential customers throughout the semester to get feedback on their ideas. They eventually learn to effectively present their idea and ask for funding.

Student Drew Capner is developing a platform called NoteGrouper. Capner explained NoteGrouper was born from the realization that the education world is becoming digitized faster than people realize.

Capner’s team developed a software that would benefit the world of education. (Drew Capner)

He compared the business world now to what it was during the industrial revolution. There used to be a long process for creating content. “(Now) we are really encouraged to build something, put it out, get it out to users, let them rip it apart, come back and re-build it.” Capner said.

This process is unique to software, and the business world is just now recognizing the fundamental need for this expertise. “The particular skills we are taught in this class really are skills that come from computer science and have moved into the business world, as business people have recognized the importance of software,” Capner said.

The CS 405 students experiment with the principles of business and marketing and notice how they impact and apply to the products they are developing. BYU student Matthew Christensen has come to enjoy learning about the marketing and business strategies that would apply to his product, YouPick.

YouPick is a mobile app that allows large groups to effectively pick a restaurant. (Matt Christensen)

YouPick is a mobile app that allows groups of friends to “anonymously vote on restaurants and see the matches,” Christensen said. This helps groups decide on a restaurant in a quick and fun way without conflict.

In the beginning stages of the project, Christensen usually found himself on the technical side. Now, he finds it exciting to see the whole process. “I find it hard to stop thinking about the business portion of the venture and start programming. It’s almost addicting to think about ways to present and maximize YouPick’s potential.”

This class has allowed students to dedicate time to developing good business ideas. Capner has finally had the opportunity to “focus on something incredibly valuable” to him.

Students have not only gained the skills they need to apply business principles to their software development but now have the confidence to embark on their future endeavors. “I hope to one day be self-employed, so I thought trying to start something while in college would be a good way to start cracking into the entrepreneurial side of things,” Christensen said.

Capner found the class has given him to the tools he needs to succeed. “I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur because it would be the biggest opportunity to put myself in a position to impact the world for good,” Capner said.

Earnshaw said he hopes to instruct the students on what they need to create good business opportunities. Having seen his own students succeed in this sphere, he invited a former student, Brady Anderson, to speak to the students. Anderson is the CEO of Sales Rabbit and was enrolled in this same class seven years ago.

Sales Rabbit is a software platform that tracks necessary information for door-to-door sales companies. Earnshaw said he enjoys seeing the success students can make for themselves with the skills they have learned and “it has been great to watch (Anderson) grow his company.”

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