Whether searching for a place to study or a shop that serves a strong cup of coffee, Binghamton University students can trade tips on the alumni-developed site HoodHoot.
On HoodHoot, users can pose questions pertaining to the University or the Binghamton area, like the best places to eat or study off campus, and receive answers from other users. Besides asking questions, users can post announcements about events and comment on topics or events going on in their neighborhoods.
The website was developed by brothers Andrew and Michael Laufer, who both graduated from BU in 2009, with degrees in industrial and systems engineering and economics, respectively; their childhood friend Joseph Fernandez, a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology; and their father Alan Laufer, who graduated from BU in 1975 with a degree in geology.
The Laufer brothers and Fernandez came up with the idea during the summer of 2009 after noticing a student need for information that was not being satisfied in Binghamton.
“When you’re a college student, you want those honest answers so you can take full advantage of your college experience and live it to the fullest,” said Andrew Laufer, chief executive officer of the company.
Launched in October 2013, the site has 200 users. All questions and answers on the website can be shared via other social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and they appear in Google search results. According to Fernandez, the chief operating officer and website manager, HoodHoot’s “share” feature is important for reaching out to potential users.
“I think it’s really important that we engage with users on all different levels of social media, no matter which systems they use,” Fernandez said.
Although HoodHoot was started with students in mind, anyone can pose or answer questions, whether they are a student, a University administrator or a resident in the Binghamton area.
“Where this goes and the type of discussion that goes on is going to be driven more by the needs of the community and who speaks up and who says what,” said Alan Laufer, chief legal counsel for the site.
The HoodHoot founders said they hoped that the website would become a social media staple and help people become more familiar with their communities. They will be expanding the site to other cities, but for now they’re using BU’s student base as a way to establish themselves.
“A lot of people are out of touch with their community, and they don’t know what’s going on around them,” Fernandez said. “HoodHoot creates a place where they can rediscover their neighborhood and learn new things about businesses in their area.”
After coming up with the idea three years ago, the group went through three web developers before finding one who could bring their vision for HoodHoot to fruition. They have also entirely funded the project themselves. According to Andrew Laufer, the total investments from all four co-founders total $75,000.
“This is really the result of a lot of time and a lot of sweet equity,” Alan said.
HoodHoot founders said they attribute their current success to the skills they each possess and their relationships with each other.
“Everyone brings something to the table,” Andrew said. “There’s no one I’d rather be in business with.”
For college students interested in starting their own website, business or application, the HoodHoot founders said the most important thing was perseverance.
“We had a long road getting here — three years,” Andrew said. “Some of it was easy and some of it was hard, but we persevered through it.”