Apps / Ecommerce / Universities

How the student-only Echo Trades competes in a Craigslist world

The online marketplace, founded by two college seniors, offers comfort and security for students who want to sell their stuff.

Screenshots of the Echo Trades iOS app. (Via iTunes)

Even with Craigslist out there casting its large, peace-sign shadow, Alex Greif and Scott Knowles think there’s room for another app-based way for people to buy and sell their used stuff.
With their app, Echo Trades, the pair of college seniors believe they can add a measure of security to online marketplaces. And they’re keeping it to college students only.
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The app, which launched in January and is currently available on iOS and Android, requires a student ID to sign up, but doesn’t divulge much more info. An in-app chat system even keeps emails from being shared. To avoid cash exchanges, there’s also a payments system within the app, known a Stripe.

Echo Trades

Scott Knowles and Alex Greif. (Photo by Kanji Takeno for Towson University)

The features are designed to reverse an increasing trend the two have heard about among college students involving fraud with Craigslist transactions, and other general shadiness involved with meeting a stranger at a spot where you haven’t been before.
“We’ve heard that students feel so much more comfortable just knowing that they’re dealing with another student,” said Knowles, who is a senior at Towson University.
To insure that it remains for college students, Echo Trades partners with specific colleges to make the app available on a given campus. So far, it’s at University of Baltimore, UMBC, Towson and University of Maryland, College Park.
“We’re trying to focus on safety and security,” said Greif.
The duo met while working at a summer internship for Morgan Stanley. Greif, who is a senior at the University of Baltimore, caught the startup bug during a two-year entrepreneurial fellows program, which required students to start their own company that generated revenue.
The idea for the app came from another acquaintance. By the time the end of the summer internship was approaching, the two were ready to put the idea for Echo Trades into action. Knowles quickly got interested, and came onboard.
Since launching, the two have been focusing on getting feedback, and staying up for late-night phone calls to a team in India that handles development.
They’ve raised $50,000 from an undisclosed investor to get going, but the long-term plan to generate revenue involves creating verified vendor accounts from area sellers who want to target college students. The vendors would pay a monthly subscription in return for the access to the audience they could reach, Knowles said. The startup also gets a cut from each Stripe transaction, Knowles added.
The duo believes the focus on the college market provides exclusivity that allows it to exist alongside resources like Craigslist. Greif compared it to another crowded e-world that’s had multiple successful players: dating sites.
“We’re not the eHarmony, we’re more of the ChristianMingle,” he said, “where we’re targeting a specific subset of people.”

Companies: Towson University / University of Baltimore

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