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BC Students' Own Start-Up Jebbit Achieves National Success

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

“Have you heard about Jebbit?” This seems to be the phrase floating around events such as CollegeFest, popping up on Facebook, and circulating around campus lately. Jebbit is in every way worthy of this attention and is bound to continue its impressive success all over the country. Yet what many people do not know is that Boston College students started Jebbit. The Jebbit team, and in particular the three students who started it, deserve some extra praise.

Put simply by CEO and founder Tom Coburn, “Businesses pay Jebbit to pay students to look at their online content.” Coburn, A&S ’13, heads the team with Chase McAleese, CSOM ’13, and Jonathan Lacoste, CSOM ’15. The three of them, along with the greater Jebbit sales and marketing team, have built Jebbit into a successful start-up.

Jebbit’s goal is to improve the efficiency of advertising. It does this by offering an incentive to the consumer—Jebbit pays consumers to look at company’s advertisements. The genius of Jebbit is behind the “cost-per-correct answer” metric they have developed. With Jebbit, customers answer questions that companies put out, and if they answer correctly, they receive cash. Designed for college students, a user signs in with Facebook to Jebbit, and is then led to a profile that gives them access to many different company “campaigns.” They are then led to the company’s website and are given a series of questions. For each correct answer, they build up their balance. Questions range from answering what color the product comes in to what material the product is made from. Through this, customers are being paid to educate themselves about products. In return, companies only pay for their advertisements when the customer answers the question correctly. Jebbit has thus boosted the company’s efficacy by creating an incentive for the consumer—a clever manipulation of capitalist desires that benefits both parties.

Because Jebbit’s platform is so far embedded into the “post-college business” world, it is easy to forget that the minds behind the company are still college students. When asked about the evolution of Jebbit from an idea to a company, Coburn explained that he first thought of the idea while sitting in an airport watching a Hulu TV show and an ad came up. As many people typically do, he ignored the ad and started talking to his friend. “It spurred the idea that companies and brands are wasting millions of dollars to show these ads that no one pays attention to,” Coburn says. “What if we can provide a way for them to actually engage with the target customer?”

Coburn was already involved with several other start-ups at BC. He already had a team in place that was working on an idea for the BC Venture Competition (BCVC.) In December of 2010, he received approval to switch the team’s idea to this new advertising concept. “We are really grateful for the advice and experience we got from BCVC,” he said. Coburn’s idea went on to win the BCVC competition that year.

Coburn then contacted McAleese, who was already involved with a company called LeapTask, and asked him if he wanted to be involved with his new start-up, which was originally named “Additup.” McAleese, skilled with computer programming, joined the team. He was soon to be followed by the addition of Lacoste, who was still in high school at the time and involved in a similar business competition. Coburn happened to be Lacoste’s interviewer in the Shaw Leadership Program, and invited him to join his team. The name Additup was thrown out early on, and the company was renamed after Coburn’s roommate and co-founder, Jeb Thomas. With the combined brilliance and creativity of these students, Jebbit was born.

Coburn, Lacoste, and McAleese make up the management team that runs Jebbit and are the CEO, the COO, and the CPO, respectively. “The most important thing is the team and the people working on idea,” Coburn said. In regards to his partners, he said, “The two of them have worked harder and put more time in than anyone. They have really dedicated themselves to the vision of Jebbit,” McAleese added. “ [Coburn] helped us get to where we are today and he will help us grow,” McAleese said.

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