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App for uni students skyrockets in popularity

Alumni News

Curtin Ignition graduates Grant Derepas and Simon Anderson have transformed their app idea, Notis, into a thriving business in Australia and the US.

Notis founders Simon Anderson (centre) and Grant Derepas (right) with US partner Jesse Robinson.

Notis is a personalised, interactive digital billboard for university students. It enables students to connect with their peers and campus community, review classes, buy and sell textbooks, look for accommodation and student clubs, find local events and receive daily discounts. The information is tailored for each university and is free to download.

Since Curtin first caught up with Derepas and Anderson in November 2017, the business has secured USD$200k in funding, enabling the Notis app to be rolled out across colleges in Utah in the US. More than 6,000 college students have downloaded Notis, and new app features are set to be released next month.

“There are three brand new features for the latest update, including a points system where students receive points for checking in at an event using the app, which they can then redeem for rewards,” says Anderson.

“We have also introduced forums so students can ask their peers and university administration questions, and we have improved the course review feature, so students can now ask other students about their review and get personalised feedback about a course.”

Anderson used to have to scour campus billboards and Facebook university groups to source content for Notis. Now, the app generates its own content from users, which means Anderson can invest time in working with universities to support the app.

“With more than 6,000 users, we have proved to universities that students want to use Notis even without administration support.”

“We believe we will be able to achieve a 30 per cent increase in adoption rate on each campus and raise more funding to improve the app’s software for both university administration and students.”

Anderson says the ability to network with people in business has been critical for generating funding opportunities and growing their business.

“Having connections plays an important role in raising investment. This is really one of the first things there is to raising money: knowing people or firms who have money and are willing to sit down with you and talk about your business plan.

“We have needed to prove our business concept for each round of funding. If we are not growing we will not receive additional funding.”

Three phones displays featuring the Notis app.

Notis has more than 6,000 users in Utah in the US.

Notis is not just growing, it’s flourishing. The app was first launched in 2014 on a marketing budget of AUD$230; the business has since raised a total of USD$800k. Anderson and Derepas aim to use Notis’ current funding to secure further contracts with US high schools and colleges and establish a sales team that will be able to promote Notis across all of Australia and the US.

Anderson originally came up with the concept for Notis through his entrepreneurship degree at Curtin before partnering with Derepas, who developed the app software. The pair then nurtured the idea into a start-up through the University’s Ignition and Accelerate programs.

Anderson says the course and programs provided foundational knowledge in diverse areas of commerce, which he continually expands on through his work with Notis.

“My degree allowed me to learn that your business offering needs to give enough value to other people that they are willing to change their current situation to be a part of what you’re offering. Just thinking it’s valuable to you is not enough for your business to be a success.”

Anderson is now based in Utah, and while he says the move away from Perth has been challenging, the unique business culture of the US helped him find his entrepreneurial feet.

“I love the business community here in Utah and the US as a whole. There is a different acceptance here regarding entrepreneurship as a career path. I feel this is in-part due to the maturity of the startup/tech community here. People are very willing to meet with others and help them in their business ventures.”

Derepas will back on Australian soil this month for Curtin Open Day on 29 July. He will be available from 10am to 4pm at Wesfarmers Court, so come along and share your business idea with him, or gain insight into the world of commerce and the endless career paths available.

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