Business students create online company for class

BUSINESS SUCCESS: Shaughn McCormick (left) and Chris Gruler (right) are the Chief Communications Officer and CEO of LiveVybe, a multimedia-based review business launched and managed with their Management 394 class, under the direction Professor Sidnee Peck. (Photo by Michael Arellano)

A business class is trying a new approach at learning about business — creating a company that exists in the real world.

Sidnee Peck, program manager of Entrepreneurship Initiatives with the W. P. Carey School of Business, created a curriculum for the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class so students could take ideas learned in previous classes and implement them in the creation of a real business.

The company developed by the students, Livevybe.com, will exist as a hyper-local competitor to online business review sites such as Yelp or Yellowpages.com.

Computer information systems sophomore Chris Gruler, who was named the company’s CEO for coming up with the concept, said the site will stand out from similar websites by heavily featuring video as part of their reviews.

The site will allow members to post video reviews, but will also allow businesses to sign up for packages where the Livevybe team will film its own review of the business.

This will allow businesses and consumers to connect much better to one another, Gruler said.

“The initial thought process was to create a forum where businesses and consumers can interact with each other.” Gruler said. “The theory is to be able to do real-time video reviews for local businesses.”

Gruler added that video reviews will add to the authenticity of the site, saying that people may doubt a review if they cannot verify that a real person is doing it.

Gruler said that if the company is successful, expanding past the Tempe community would be a real option, but that Livevybe will focus on perfecting their brand locally first.

“We definitely want to take it national, but you have to perfect one market first,’ Gruler said. “We want to make sure we can make it successful in this market.”

Peck believes the class gives the students a unique advantage over others who have to risk their own time and capital to start a business.

“It’s a safe place,” Peck said. “They could start this business and if it fails, they’ve only lost a semester or two of time.”

By giving students a safe place to deal with the difficulties that come with starting a business, Peck said participants in the class are able to better decide if the business world is right for them.

“They don’t have to wait to get their first job to decide that this isn’t something they want to do,” Peck said. “They find out if entrepreneurship is right for them.”

The class was created through a partnership with entrepreneur Kevin J. Berk, an angel investor who gave $2,500 of seed money to start the business. Berk sits in with the class when it meets, and helps give advice to students who are serious about starting businesses.

“The goal is to create a different way the classroom works,” said Berk, who graduated from ASU in 1990 with a degree in philosophy. “Actually starting a company is different than just reading about it in a textbook.”

David Gardner, a management senior who will work in the company’s marketing department, said the class has been far more effective than previous management classes he has taking.

“If I go to a management class and I memorize a bunch of stuff, I might forget it next week,” Gardner said. “That hands-on experience gives you a real advantage.”

Livevybe.com will do a soft launch on Nov. 15, and hopes to begin a larger launch complete with a marketing campaign at ASU in January.

Reach the reporter at Michael.reppenhagen@asu.edu