Apps / COVID-19 / Startups

One year in, this UD student startup positions itself for growth beyond Newark

Backyard Gig, launched by two University of Delaware sophomores in mid-2020, is drawing more users from the college town community.

Backyard Gig, the community odd-job app designed to help college students earn money even when their school schedules rule out a regular job, has found a following in a demographic that isn’t especially common for college startups: older adults.

Newark, as a college town, is known for being populated by a large number of college-aged young people who live in dorms, share houses and generally support the town’s retail and restaurant economy. But, like any college town, they’re just one part of the population. The city of Newark is home for plenty of families, professionals and retirees.

Backyard Gig’s goal has always been to bring those two worlds together by having locals hire students for whatever odd jobs they might have, from mowing lawns and shoveling snow to tutoring and website design.

“One of the most popular tasks posted backyard gig is the weeding and gardening element,” said Shaun Gupta, who cofounded the platform with classmate Shahroze Ali in 2020, when they were sophomores at the University of Delaware. “We’ve found that people need an extra hand for those tasks, especially people toward the elderly side that have liked our site and the idea that it could help connect to people that are able to help them accomplish their task.”

The web platform was developed with the help of several Horn Entrepreneurship programs such as VentureOn. This year’s Hen Hatch, Horn’s annual pitch competition, gave it its biggest boost to date: The team won around $18,000 in cash and in-kind resources, Gupta said, which they’ve used to develop their business model and better understand the market.

Backyard Gig looks similar now to they way it looked when it launched, but there are some changes — most notably, the ads.

“We’re trying to generate our own revenue on the site now through advertising, so we’ve been contacting local businesses in the local Newark area to see if they’d be open to placing an ad on our site,” Gupta said.

Eventually, he said, they plan to take a small percentage of each task completed through the platform. Part of the challenge in getting to that point has been the COVID-19 pandemic.

Backyard Gig website

The homepage of (Screenshot)

“It was tough to navigate around [the pandemic],” he said, noting that, with in-person campus closures last school year, the premise of hiring college students to come to your house to help with chores was challenged. “As the vaccine started to roll out and people became more comfortable with being around one another, and as the university started to open up more, traction has been made and we hope to capitalize on that this fall semester, since it will be technically Backyard Gig’s first true semester back on campus with everyone here.”

Despite the stumbling blocks of COVID, more than 100 tasks posted on the site since it launched, resulting in an estimated gross revenue of $14,000 for students. Overall, the platform now has about 400 users, which Gupta said is a combination of greater Newark households, small businesses and UD students.

As they press on into their junior year, they’re considering new features, such as an automated price generator to help job posters determine a fair price for a task, and hope to see enough growth over the autumn season to move toward pitching for VC funding, which would be necessary for the platform to step beyond just Newark.

“We hope to learn as much as we can this semester to see if it would be appropriate to scale Backyard Gig into other college towns in greater Dover or Greater Philadelphia and look for venture capital funding to help with that,” Gupta said.

Companies: University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship / Backyard Gig / University of Delaware

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