UMSL-grown Beanstalk Web Solutions takes root

The UMSL computer science program's (from left) Cory Cross, Tim Hebel, Dan Reller, Jeremy Stumbaugh and Dan Gray make up Beanstalk Web Solutions, the web development and internet marketing company Hebel is growing while completing his bachelor's degree at UMSL. (Photos by August Jennewein)

The UMSL computer science program’s (from left) Cory Cross, Tim Hebel, Dan Reller, Jeremy Stumbaugh and Dan Gray make up Beanstalk Web Solutions, the web development and internet marketing company Hebel is growing while completing his bachelor’s degree at UMSL. (Photos by August Jennewein)

In the rehabbed basement office of a quaint historic downtown Webster Groves building, you’ll find five young men making some of the finest websites you can buy in town.

Cory Cross, Dan Gray, Dan Reller and Jeremy Stumbaugh all work for Beanstalk Web Solutions, the ambitious web development and Internet marketing startup founded by Tim Hebel, who said business is booming after moving into their new space this past February.

Tim Hebel, senior computer science major at UMSL, is owner and founder of Beanstalk Web Solutions in Webster Groves.

Tim Hebel, senior computer science major at UMSL, is owner and founder of Beanstalk Web Solutions in Webster Groves.

The common denominator for these men: The University of Missouri–St. Louis. All five took computer science classes together at UMSL, where they met, worked on team projects and formed friendships throughout their time in the computer science program.

“I asked Tim what he was doing in class one day,” said Reller, who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in the spring. “He was looking up something to do with bitcoin. Ever since then we’ve been working together.”

“I was pretty notorious for going around and trying to get dudes’ numbers,” Reller teased.

With four computers side by side, the group of guys can kid around while getting some serious work done. This day, Cross fine-tuned the Fur Clearinghouse site, featuring Katt Williams on the homepage in a custom-made fur.

“This is actually one of our most complex projects,” Hebel said. “It’s an e-commerce store that has multiple storefronts. When products are added, they are also automatically added to eBay and Amazon. That makes it fairly large and complex. If someone buys a product on one site, we’ve made it so that product is automatically removed across all sites as well.”

The programmers attribute their knowledge of how to build these more complex functionalities and high-quality sites to the UMSL computer science program.

API calls, server-side scripting, databases, advanced web development languages – that’s really what I have the computer science department to thank for,” Hebel said. “A lot of web developers can just do front-end design and real basic stuff, but because everyone here took the CS classes, we can deliver top-tier websites.”

One such example is Beanstalk’s work on Metro Christian Guide, the largest database in the nation with 305,000 businesses and churches.

“We wrote search engine algorithms for that website and created a custom code so that on that site you can ‘lift’ a business or a church, which acts like an internal ‘tweet’ or ‘like’ of that particular church,” Hebel said. “We had our code reviewed by Facebook, which then let those ‘lifts’ be automatically posted to Facebook walls. That’s not something just any front-end web developer can do for you.”

While Reller has already graduated, the rest of the crew is at the tail end of their degrees and still attends night classes after working during the day. All anticipate a May 2016 graduation date. That includes Hebel himself, who has built his company and chiseled away at his degree all at the same time.

The Beanstalk team, made up of four UMSL computer science students and one alumnus

The Beanstalk programming team comprises four UMSL computer science students and one alumnus

“It was stressful and drained away part of my life,” he said, “but I thank my family and my girlfriend, Asher Kerr, for the support and understanding the amount of time I had to sink into this.”

For Hebel, studying computer science and starting his own company was more about “going with the flow” of the opportunities at his fingertips.

Around the age of 10, his parents enrolled him in a local HTML coding class for kids. That translated into designing games on his graphing calculator in high school. But when it came time for college, Hebel chose to study ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University.

“While I was there, I started to realize that my favorite classes were the ones that involved programming,” he said. “All engineers have to take basic programming classes, and I really liked that a lot more.”

That’s when Hebel chose UMSL. It made no sense for him to continue to pay out-of-state tuition when he didn’t need to be ocean-side for his new degree track – computer science.

“I feel like with computer science, Washington University [in St. Louis] is just unaffordable, and I don’t think Saint Louis University has a better CS program than UMSL,” he said. “UMSL also specializes in artificial intelligence. So that was a big attraction. And of course, it’s very affordable.”

Beanstalk-LogoIt was a choice that seems to have paid off. For the time being, the Beanstalk group is happy and the guys consider it a pretty sweet deal to be working with friends.

“I knew when I applied here that I’d be working with people that actually got stuff done,” Gray said. “And honestly, it was a relief to know they are smart, too.”

They said they get sick of each other, but as Reller pointed out, that’s to be expected, and they even tease about the amount of time they spend together.

“It’s a pretty open relationship,” he joked.

The same openness and honesty is what you’ll find in their business motto, too. They know all the technical computer science terms and strategies to impress, but Beanstalk prides itself on translating their work into web solutions that make sense to anyone.
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