Catalyst project gets Facebook grant and international kudos

Podclass is one of 10 applicants chosen from more than 1,000 candidates

Kiwi open-source specialist Catalyst IT’s link with US start-up Podclass has brought a $US250,000 grant to interface the Podclass application — for distribution of educational materials and video podcasts — to Facebook.

Podclass was one of only 10 applicants chosen from more than 1,000 candidates for grants from Facebook’s fbFund.

“The money is important, but the real value is the analysis that Facebook did of our proposal and the credibility boost that this gives [Podclass],” says Catalyst director Don Christie.

Catalyst IT was introduced to Podclass founder Gary Gil about two years ago and helped develop the Podclass application, using Catalyst’s own open-source online course platform, Moodle, as a base.

“We are thrilled that Catalyst has been involved in such a successful venture for Gary,” says Christie.

“We could see from the beginning, when Gary first approached us, that he had a really compelling idea. The chemistry between Catalyst and the Podclass team has enabled us to deliver an application that is now going to be part of the fourth busiest site in the world.”

Podclass’s presence on Facebook will be “unique”, Christie claims, in that all FaceBook users will get the full capability of the application immediately. Usually, users have less direct access to applications and reduced functionality.

The grant binds Podclass more closely into the Web 2.0 world of social networking. Facebook, which had its beginnings in education, as a means for tertiary students to stay in contact with one another, is a particularly appropriate vehicle, Christie says.

“Gary asked us to start looking at Facebook about a year ago,” he says. “This may seem like a straightforward deal, but there have been some complex negotiations involved.”

This, in turn, has given Catalyst IT valuable experience in relating to the business environment of Silicon Valley, he says.

The fbFund has not received such glowing approval from many applicants. Some were miffed by Facebook initially accepting applications by email then asking that they be resubmitted on a fuller and more secure application form.

Facebook had been less than professional and “taken a Mulligan”, said one industry commentator. A “Mulligan” is an opportunity to retake a muffed shot in an informal golf game.

Some unsuccessful applicants were also upset by the brevity and what they saw as dismissive air of rejection letters.

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