No Business Backgrounds; Tabule Founders Find Traction in Chicago

Tabule, a shared to-do list for students, was created by Neil Gupta (above) and Eric Trahn. [Photo by Erica Herbert]

One month after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Neil Gupta found himself speaking at a press conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

That experience, and the chance to participate in the city’s first ThinkChicago in 2011, keeps him singing praises for the local startup community. Chicago is where Gupta has chosen to continue improving his product, Tabule ― what he calls “a student planner on steroids.”

The app, which will be seeing a more sophisticated, unique version in August, currently has thousands of college users. The majority are from Chicago ― where the product originated ― and California, where Gupta and co-founder Eric Trinh became childhood friends. Their main market, however, is Chicago because of its fast-paced startup community.

“You’re investing time and talent into a location and you want to invest in something that’s growing rather than something that has already matured,” Gupta says. “So that’s kind of how we see Chicago. It has a lot of potential and, in five years, it’s going to be seen as one of the larger hubs. We want to be part of that. We want to be some of those people that got it to where it’s going to be.”

Like Chicago’s startup community, Tabule continues to grow. The app, which offers college students with an “.edu” email address, and an organizational tool to manage assignments, will become more like a personal assistant with its August upgrade. Tabule will be able to add classes based on a picture of a user’s syllabus, determine the workloads of users, and suggest starting assignments early. Gupta says the app will even try to avoid giving users homework on Fridays and Saturdays, if possible.

Gupta’s primary background is in computer science; Trinh’s in bio-chemistry. Despite their lack of business degrees, the duo has found entrepreneurship to be easier than expected. Gupta attributes that to being raised in California by two entrepreneur parents whom, he says, gave him the courage to pursue his own business. Gupta believes that not majoring in business has helped them grow Tabule.

“Especially in a startup, where you learn as you go, it’s the companies that try new things that make it big,” Gupta says. “So it’s actually kind of useful not to have a background in business because you’re willing to take risks and try things nobody else has thought of.”

In addition to its thousands of current users, Tabule has attracted interest from teachers who want a better way to reach out to their students.

The team was able to hook a few Angel investors last summer. They continue to reach out to investors on Twitter which, Gupta says, has become one of his favorite resources. ❒

[Photo of Neil Gupta by Erica Herbert. © Blackline Review.]

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