Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) senior Alexander Santamaria captured top honors in the university’s 2013 Innovation Challenge with his creation of a textbook trading website, Textbookhouse.com. With the win, he will receive $10,000 and a package of business services to further develop the product and create a business plan to move the business forward.
Developed with teammate Paras Goswami, Textbookhouse.com is the first website that connects college students with other students on their campus who are interested in trading their textbooks. The site uses a database of books students currently own and books they will need the following semester. Once a match is made, the students can then meet on campus to trade books, and at the end of the semester, they can either return the books or use them for another trade.
“One year I was fed up with paying high prices at the bookstore and thought there had to be a better way,” Santamaria recalled, noting how the idea for Textbookhouse came about. “I would see students selling books that I needed back to the bookstore and buying books that I owned. Instead of using the bookstore to get these books, I thought, 'Why don’t I create a site that connects students together to trade these books and eliminate the need to keep buying and selling.'”
The site has launched at CSULB and Santa Clara University, and Santamaria and his team will be launching a mobile app and updating the site with the funding they have secured through the Innovative Challenge.
Sponsored by the university’s College of Engineering and College of Business Administration, the annual Innovation Challenge gives CSULB students an opportunity to put their entrepreneurial spirit in action.
What makes the challenge more interesting and practical is the partnership between the two colleges. In most cases, engineering students focus on creating and designing the product while business student teammates focus on financing and marketing. Michael Solt, dean of the College of Business Administration, and Forouzan Golshani, dean of the College of Engineering, have both initiated similar efforts in other universities.
“Now in its third year, the CSULB Innovation Challenge has established excellent relationships, on one hand with the investment and business community and on the other with the campus student community,” Dean Golshani pointed out. “This initiative has proven to be a great partnership between the CSULB engineering and business schools in guiding the student efforts, and, with the help of seasoned entrepreneurs who lead the organization of the Challenge, selecting one highly promising business plan for implementation.”
The event is staged in a competitive environment with the objective to identify and develop ideas that have potential for commercialization. Judging is based on the following merits: contents of a written proposal, business case and the formal presentation. The goal is to stimulate students to pursue ideas, create a business plan and put their plan in motion.
“The Innovation Challenge is a great way to get students to make their idea happen,” said Santamaria, who will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in operations and supply chain management in May. “Even if you are not selected for the final four, (the challenge) gives you a clear idea of how to make your idea a reality.”
This was actually the second year in a row Santamaria entered his idea in the Innovation Challenge. Last year, he said, he was beaten by another team, but he didn’t give up.
“I created and launched the site in under a year and have gained users who have traded books on the site,” he pointed out. “I also gave a much more convincing presentation this year and clearly explained how the business was going to grow in the future.
“Winning the challenge this year, I felt validated in my efforts. I launched the site even before the innovation challenge and lost the previous year,” Santamaria added. “The money will be used to market the site on campus and increase the features and user design of the website. I will also be launching a mobile application for next year. So, I am very excited about moving forward on this project with the funding that has been secured.”
Santamaria gave special thanks to Shellie Hunt, who served as his mentor for the project. Hunt is a global entrepreneur, business strategist, and author of the “Success is by Design” series. An international motivational speaker in the human potential industry and business training corporate arenas, Hunt specializes in personal improvement, business strategy, business expansion and corporate leadership training.
Textbookhouse is looking to expand and is currently looking for developers and business students interested in joining the team. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.