If you scroll through the “Free and For Sale” Facebook group, you can find a number of people advertising everything from textbooks to summer sublets. Yet, as a buyer, if you are looking for a particular purchase, the best thing you can do is scroll through the group and hope that you can find what you’re looking for. If that doesn’t work out, your best bet is to buy it new for more or look for it on Craigslist, where you do not necessarily know whom you are getting something from. Kevin Fung, TD’17, Apurv Suman, PC’16, and Aaron Shim, SY’16, saw the fact that no intuitive and efficient site existed for buying and selling products within Yale, and wanted to fix it. That’s when BoolaMarket was born.
Fung describes BoolaMarket as “an online local e-commerce platform to connect buyers and sellers within a secure network”. Their initial testing ground is Yale University. Users must log in using CAS credentials before they are able to use the site. Fung and Suman stated that they really wanted to tap into the growing demand for local e-commerce, but also wanted to “use the advantage of community.” Currently people buy and sell online using platforms like Amazon, Ebay and Craigslist. When it comes to buying used goods though, students might feel reluctant to buy something off of Craigslist. Suman states it as “I’m comfortable using technology and shopping online, but when it comes to secondhand, I wouldn’t buy off Craigslist. I don’t feel comfortable.” Students are much more likely to feel more comfortable going to another Yale student’s dorm and picking up a TV. Suman’s belief is that, “there’s an element of trust within a community.”
Fung also believes that BoolaMarket will be successful because it is a lot more user-friendly than any of the minimally existing platforms, like Free & For Sale, are. Users can enjoy their browsing experience because there’s a search bar, in addition to settings where users can input their own preferences about what sorts of items they would like to see the most. You can swipe through items easily on your phone and see items that you might not have otherwise thought about buying. Fung excitedly describes it as the “Tinder of Free & For Sale.” Another unique aspect of the site is the ability for users to post to a “Wishlist” about what they are looking to buy. If a seller has an item, they can indicate on that buyer’s post that they have it, and the two will be put into contact. It encapsulates the reverse direction of the standard buyer-seller model.
How do sales work though? If you’re a buyer, you log in with your netID, post what and when you’d like to buy, in addition to making offers on existing listings on the site. Sellers get paid through their Venmo accounts while buyers purchase using a credit/debit card. Suman explains that the reason they chose Venmo was because “it’s fast and free for users. In addition, there’s a pretty broad intersection between people selling on sites like Free & For Sale and those who have Venmo.”
The founders are all excited about the possibility that BoolaMarket can expand and become profitable, but are first focused on making a sustainable business model that will last. “We’re not in this just to make money. We’re in it to solve a real problem,” Suman says. In fact, after sending out a survey to all undergraduates last year and receiving 900 responses, 97% of respondents said they would be interested in a new platform for buying and selling things on campus. BoolaMarket is also sustainability-friendly. The founders, along with their marketing coordinator Will Van Fossen ‘17, have met with Ryan Laemel of the Yale Office of Sustainability, who was enthused about the platforms potential to make a sustainable impact on the Yale community.
How did BoolaMarket come to be? Fung and Suman came together after they realized they had similar ideas about creating this type of market. Shim was the lead developer on the team, whom Fung and Suman say they are extremely grateful to for all the work he did on the front end and back end designing. Suman says of Shim that, “Not only [is he] a great developer, but manages to be logical while having great ideas.” The four sound like a great team together, with each having different backgrounds in entrepreneurship. Fung had previously interned in Hong Kong with the renewable energy startup, One Earth Designs. Suman, as a computer science and economics double major, says that a “startup was the natural expression of these interests.” He has worked previously for Elmseed Enterprise, where he says he was “more on the business side of things” and worked as Vice President of software development for LeapYear. Finally, Shim is a talented programmer in the Yale Computer Science department. “When the three of us rent a room—often it’s a room in the basement of WLH—our understanding of the product is a beautiful synthesis of technology and its impact; how it can create a new experience,” Suman says.
While BoolaMarket certainly has the brains and creativity behind it for a bright future, the four are aware that it won’t be without its challenges. They hope that they will be able to make the idea spread. Their biggest hurdle for a while was coming up with the name for the company. While they wanted a name that would have a Yale attachment, they did not want to limit their futures to a market solely at Yale. “Boola is Yale’s spirit, it identifies with the idea of community without limiting us,” Fung explains the reasoning behind the final name. They say their dream is for BoolaMarket to become the platform that people turn to for buying and selling within communities.