In a nutshell, Octopedia wants to build a college search engine for Chinese studying abroad in the form of a chatbot to combat information assymetry in China’s billion-dollar study abroad industry. In China, hundreds of thousands of students study abroad each year, and most consult agencies. If college application were to be a process from 0 to 1, ideally Octopedia would be able to help with the 0 to 0.7 part concerning information. Yet the status quo entails scraping through multiple levels of the internet, i.e., going to dozens of different sites and delving into levels of their subpages. The most widely used online solution, Baidu, with millions of annual searches, however, is filled with sponsored ads and out-dated info. Our vision is to automate college counselling and our goal is to answer as many questions as possible for Chinese students, parents, and even college consultants themselves, or whoever interested in study abroad. To do so we seek to build a search engine with our own database incorporating resources from different sites, including but not limited to Quora, LinkedIn, Niche, Viewify, youvisit.com, college official websites, and Chinese blogs; and build a chatbot that retrieves such information for our user through an instant messaging interface. Besides a focus on efficient information retrieval, Octopedia will also personalize user experience by tailoring push notifications and school recommendations with user behavior. While legal issues concerning data protection are still under the question, the underlying technology includes seach, data collection, database, natural language processing and a end product shell of web / iOS / Android / WeChat App, offering a complexity that might create technical barrier for our potential competitors. With a working prototype, we can reach our target users through media outlets such as CollegeDaily.Inc. (China’s No.1 Study Abroad online media platform, requires $5000) and Panopath (the go-to site for young Chinese studying abroad), both of which I am personally connected with. In terms of business model, we plan to explore different possibilties like transactional revenue model (direct charged App Download & In-App Purchase), subscription, ads or affiliate revenue model given an established user base. For the past two years, our team has been developing the project on the side. Besides 2 hackathons, Octopedia attended MIT Launch 2017 Global Demo Day as a finalist; on September 2018 , we joined CMU’s Project Olympus Program and on November 2018 received more than 20 resumes from developers of CMU and U Pitt at Pittsburgh Startup Job Fair and CMU US-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship Association's career fair and are in talks with potential partners such as Viewify, which records college life with student-made videos. Now, we look forward to making a difference at Microsoft ImagineCup and beyond !
Core team listed at https://www.octopedia.club/about/, most being full-time undergraduate students who are developing on the side. The team registering for Microsoft ImagineCup includes Ling Hong, a second year CMU Heinz Data Analytics student from China who focuses on natural language processing, Tejas Prakash, an Indian CMU Statistics & Machine Learning senior who is responsible for web scraping and building the database, and Kelton Zhang, a Chinese CMU Electrical and Computer Engineering freshman who had the idea two years ago during his own college application in charge of project management, product design, while coding along with the team. As a whole, we are a group of "technocratic" aspiring students wanting to change the world for the better :)