UC Berkeley students launch online marketplace

The "Buy Near Me" team has been working on their site since last spring.

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A group of UC Berkeley students recently launched an online marketplace for students in an effort to facilitate smoother exchanges within the campus community.

Buy Near Me — which uses the URL buynear.me — is a Craigslist spinoff tailored to students looking to buy and sell discounted items to other locals. The website has garnered more than 10,000 page views since its launch last December.

Looking to replace inefficient business dealings over Facebook, Buy Near Me instead uses Facebook to invite groups and friends to view what their friends are selling and share interesting finds to their walls.

“Facebook isn’t where people want to do business — it’s where they waste time and do social things,” said Eric Xiao, a UC Berkeley junior who co-founded Buy Near Me with fellow juniors Rory Timar, Seung Joo Lee and Calvin Woo and sophomore Jessie Tang. “By using our platform, you can make business more personal, buying and selling to people you are connected to.”

Xiao, an electrical engineering and computer science major, said the team initially sought to create “event aggregators,” using technology to create a calendar of events to replace fliers.

“There have been two or three iterations of this, but they die because it’s so difficult to compile all that information by yourself,” Xiao said. “But Stanford has their own Craigslist, and we can do anything Stanford can do but better.”

The team began development during RRR Week last spring and worked diligently through the summer, writing massive amounts of code to perfect the site before its launch. The students are currently developing a mobile version of the website, and they have been partnering with several student groups on campus to help market their startup.

“Our team has poured hours into making sure the buying, selling and reposting processes are as streamlined as possible,” said Tang.

Nerissa Ignacio, a sophomore who uses the site to sell old textbooks and furniture, said she feels more secure using Buy Near Me because it is directed primarily to students.

“I choose this over Amazon and Craigslist because it is closer and I can trust my buyers,” Ignacio said. “I like how organized and clean it looks.”

The website is currently free to use as the team explores business models that work in this field. Xiao said that future improvements include integrating Facebook more seamlessly into Buy Near Me and requiring users to register with student email addresses to increase security.

“Working with the team is definitely my favorite part, but hearing people gush about how they have used and love the product you poured your life into — that’s pretty cool too,” Tang said.

Virgie Hoban covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected].