In 2005, on the first day of class, Nikhil Paul was one of 100 eager engineering students who showed up at the University of Delaware, ready to go.
As time went on, however, the grueling four-year undergraduate program took a toll on many of Paul’s classmates. By graduation, only 18 of the original 100 students had successfully completed the program.
This didn’t sit well with Paul, who was born and raised in India before moving to Delaware to attend high school.
“I was shocked the more I looked into students dropping out,” he told Technical.ly Delaware. “I had made it because I had a community that was invested in my success. And there’s a lesson to be drawn from that.”
Watching his fellow classmates fall of the wagon was hard for Paul, now 26, to witness, but it did spark an idea.
Soon after, he created Nfoshare.com, a digital platform originally created for professors and students to use simultaneously. A professor would use this platform to ask students a question each day — perhaps, ‘How late did you stay up studying for this exam?’ or ‘How was your commute this morning?’
Students would respond to these questions, which, Paul said, gave students a sense of community, knowing that they were not alone in staying up until 3 a.m. stressing about the exam. And professors would have analytics showing how students responded, which would allow them to tailor how to teach or interact with their students.
“Social emotional data is very powerful,” Paul said. “It gives you a small sense of emotional catharsis. You click and tell us how you’re doing and with each click, you’re connecting to others.”
Paul has seen some success with the platform being piloted at various colleges across the state. But he’s setting his sights higher and expanding the platform to work for CEOs, business leaders and bosses. Anyone who leads a team, Paul said, can benefit from using this platform. This, he added, will boost student success and employee retention.
Nfoshare is easy to use: if a boss or professor invites users to participate, employees and students will sign up with an email address. After that, the questions start coming to the user.
Because of the platform’s growing success, the startup was recently named to the DreamIt Ventures Philadelphia 2014 class. Paul and company will receive funding and mentorship this fall through the program. Nfoshare plans to launch a mobile app to complement its existing web platform.
Paul thinks Nfoshare might revolutionize how universities and businesses retain employees and students.
“For us, the exciting part is the analytics,” he said. “The early pilots show that this is a very powerful new industry. Emotions are the leading indicator on a lot of things. The first company with access to that data is going to lead the way. It’s exciting and pretty powerful.”
Paul and his team of three designers and engineers have occupied a New York City office for just under two years. They’re not set on staying there, though, and may look to move back to the First State if the funding is there.
“[Delaware] is absolutely fantastic. I love it and wear it proudly on my sleeve. It speaks to a growing community of entrepreneurs,” Paul said. “I’m really proud. I’ve met some Delaware startups and it’s a great network.”
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