Web site allows students to trade goods

Students can buy, sell, lend or give away items ” and even search for roommates.

by Bryce Haugen

Iowa State University marketing senior Keith Dietzenbach said he’s saved more than $600 since fall 2003 reselling old textbooks on www.cheggpost.com.

“It’s like a little recycling process I have,” said Dietzenbach, who also sells used electronics on the Web site.

A new version of the Web site, renamed chegg.com, launched at 10 Midwestern college campuses this month, including the University of Minnesota. The site offers registered users a free way to buy, sell, lend or give away an array of items.

Although the site’s format is similar to ebay.com, there are some key differences, said cofounder and campus operations coordinator Aayush Phumbhra. With chegg.com, instead of relying on blind trust with a faceless buyer, students exchange their items and money in person, he said. This allows them to avoid shipping costs and delays.

“(Chegg.com) is a trustworthy network of friends,” he said. “We give students a way to save money by selling (their) textbooks at a greater price than the bookstore would provide.”

Students perusing the Web site Sunday could find Iowa State University student Patrick Jennings’ botany textbook listed for $10 ” he claims it was gently used and costs twice as much at the bookstore.

Other students sell electronics, movies, games and furniture. Some seek new roommates.

The Web site, which requires a university-issued e-mail account for access, started as “a daydream of sorts,” said Josh Carlson, an Iowa State alumnus, who founded the original cheggpost.com.

“I remember getting excited about every post that showed up on the site,” he said. “And soon the posts turned to the hundreds ” and thousands.”

With offices in the heart of Silicon Valley, chegg.com plans to expand nationally, said chief executive officer Osman Rashid, a 1993 University electrical engineering graduate. He said they plan to make money by selling advertisements to local, and eventually national, businesses.

“We are managing our growth, but at the same time we have a very focused eye on becoming profitable,” he said.

Chegg.com helps users bring value to items that don’t have an easily reached market ” a concept known as liquidity, said Rob Kauffman, director of management information systems research at the Carlson School of Management.

“It reduces my search costs and helps me establish what the value ought to be,” he said.

Localized electronic markets are not a new idea, Kauffman said, but bringing them to college campuses is. He said other sites have become viable businesses, but it’s a tough market to tap into.

“They have to find a way to monetize the participation of these people,” he said.

More than 8,000 Iowa State students have used cheggpost.com since its 2001 inception.

To spread word about the updated Web site, the company will offer internships to University students, giving them “a real feel of the corporate world,” Rashid said. And chegg.com users are encouraged to invite friends to join the network.

So far, only a few University of Minnesota students have joined the site. But once the company begins marketing heavily in January, Phumbhra said, he expects chegg.com to catch on like it did at Iowa State.

Vivek Kalihari, a first-year chemical engineering and materials science graduate student, said chegg.com “sounds great.”

“If you’re getting something for less money, it’s obviously beneficial for you,” he said.

But Kalihari said he’ll probably use the site only if his friends do.