Students at Southern California’s University of LaVerne have turned a problem into a small business – developing a low-cost digital signage solution for the campus library and in the process realizing the same set-up could be offered to area businesses.
The library wanted to expand its messaging capability, but the commercial solution being used by the university was going to cost far more than was available in the capital and ops budgets. So a library student dug around online, and spec’d out a solution that would use a Raspberry Pi micro PC that – all in – was going to cost less than $100 and run off Rise Vision’s free, open source digital signage CMS.
The university, relates Rise Vision on its company blog, then brought together (IT consulting firm) SIGMAnet and its business/ computer science majors to form a practicum courses for the School of Business centered around digital signage. This class took the student’s partially developed project, finished it, and created a business around it.
At the beginning of the semester the class positioned pilots in the library and a popular restaurant off campus to validate their signage experiment. Now they are finalizing their value proposition and speaking with other departments on campus and local business partners to cultivate interest for their product. The students are aggressively working towards the end goal of securing financial backing to further expand the offering.
The class itself was only supposed to be one semester, but the momentum and interest has solidified the class for future semesters. The participating students come from a wide range of backgrounds, from computer science to business majors, but share one common goal – providing affordable signage.
“The key benefit is we get to work in a professional, real world setting for developing new products and structuring the business around it,” commented a student.
“Being able to work at SIGMAnet instead of in the classrooms has provided us valuable experience that prepares us for the transition from a backpack to a briefcase,” added another.
Of course, as the photo shows, that first business was a bar and the content is a micro-brew beer menu.