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ClusterFlunk Comes To The August BIZ Luncheon

July 16, 2014

“If you want to hear the true ClusterFlunk startup story, the things we had to do that we haven’t discussed in the press, you should definitely attend,” teases ClusterFlunk Co-Founder AJ Nelson of his appearance at the August Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) Luncheon.  Nelson and his partner Joe Dallago will be the guests of Executive Director Mike Colwell during an hour-long question and answer session.

Born of a frustration shared by these two best friends as they sat in a University of Iowa lecture hall surrounded by 400 strangers, ClusterFlunk, tagged “The way our generation does education,” is an on-line social networking site built around university classes and intended to remove the social barrier that naturally exists in the lecture hall environment where people simply do not know those around them, and do not know how to reach out to establish a personal relationship or to share notes and matriculate together in a virtual study cell.

“It was just one of those duh moments,” recalls Nelson when he and Dallago opted to build a bottom up platform starting with students and organizing them around specific classes providing a “wall” for each class where questions and answers as well as notes, study guides, previous exams and suggested reading can be shared.

The beta rolled out in January of 2013 at the University of Iowa and as it incubated through the year, 60 percent of the student body had already engaged as ClusterFlunk expanded to 15 other schools during the Spring semester of 2014. A survey taken at the end of that semester shows 65 percent of the users felt they had enhanced their grades through participation. Analytics indicated that during that semester over 122,000 files had been downloaded with an average of slightly more than 1000 daily users spending a semester total of more than 12,000 hours on the site.

The success has not gone unnoticed, facilitating successful startup funding, earning the Technology Association of Iowa Prometheus Student Startup of the Year Award, and earning the founders the Under 30 CEO Rookie of the Year honors among other notoriety.

In the interviewee chairs, fielding questions from Colwell and the audience, Nelson and Dallago expect to share lessons well learned including; building a viable user base ahead of a revenue stream, reading as many books as you can because whatever you are doing, somebody has done it or something similar before, or understanding that whatever you think is your first minimum viable product is, it isn’t. “That was a big learning curve for us,” he remembers of their first iteration. “We had a ton of feature creep and a ton of noise that just spun our wheels and cost us a lot of time,” Nelson recalls.

Perhaps foremost of the wisdom these barely 20 somethings can share; “Half the battle is finding a co-founder with whom you can just work toward the best answer where nobody is right or wrong and you leave your ego at the door. For us, best friends since high school, it was a dream come true.”

Come hear more of the dream on Aug. 20, 2014, 11:30 a.m. at StartUp City Des Moines, 317 Sixth Ave., Suite 500. Admission is $15 (includes lunch).

Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance.

Square One DSM, an initiative of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, is formerly known as Business Innovation Zone (BIZ).


The BIZ's mission is to connect entrepreneurial needs with qualified community and state resources and to provide guided professional and business direction. The BIZ helps entrepreneurs maximize their successes by helping them navigate resources, strengthen knowledge, improve skills, form strategic alliances and secure proper capitalization.