By Briagenn Adams, Ohio University Innovation Center PR specialist
Brian Adams is a senior at Ohio University attaining a B.S.S. major – Bachelor of Specialized Studies – and focusing on entrepreneurship, marketing and communications. Brian participated in the January 2013 Startup Weekend in Athens, Ohio, and highly recommends the program.
Briagenn: Please explain MyCampus:
Brian: MyCampus is a mobile marketplace that enables college students to buy and sell their used items, like smart phones, textbooks and furniture. It takes less than 30 seconds to post an item and the application includes push notifications, instant messaging, user profiles and eventually search alerts and user reviews. Essentially, it’s a way to connect with people who are buying what you’re selling and who are selling what you’re looking to buy. With Craigslist, you can search for an item within Columbus, Ohio, but it still might be 30 or 40 miles away. So, MyCampus is much more localized, much more personal. We’ve reduced the time it takes to post an item for sale by 75% compared to Amazon and Craigslist. And, once our payment plan is put in place, we’ve reduced the cost by 66%. So not only are we faster, but we’re cheaper.
Eventually, within the next two years, I want Ohio University students to ask each other, “Where did you find your textbook?” and the answer to be, “on MyCampus.”
Briagenn: How did you hear about Startup Weekend Athens Ohio?
Brian: I heard about it in my entrepreneurial fraternity, Epsilon Nu Tau. I heard about it a few months before the event took place and I actually knew one of the previous winners so I figured, why not? It would take me outside my comfort zone and allow me to get my feet wet.
Briagenn: What was the product/service you first pitched at Startup Weekend, and did that idea get placed?
Brian: The initial idea that was pitched was a very extensive mixture of a campus marketplace combined with news, updates and events, with a social aspect incorporated. Unfortunately, different team members didn’t choose to work with me until the very last second, and then we didn’t even place at the end of the weekend.
Briagenn: Although your idea didn’t win, what did you learn from Startup Weekend? Was the experience positive?
Brian: The experience was definitely positive. The initial shock of not placing was very heartbreaking at first; it was a humbling experience. Overall, it taught me that even though I could easily picture my own vision, other people couldn’t. Although we didn’t place, I still wanted to know why, so I asked. It turned out that the reason was our revenue model, not our actual product, and that was encouraging. Also, in regards to team building, I didn’t go there with people who I knew I would work with. I went alone, with the intent of persuading others to join my cause. From Startup Weekend, I learned that I’m not a very good public speaker. So, it taught me a lot about myself. It taught me the kinds of people I work well with, and the kinds of people who I don’t.
Briagenn: How did you take that constructive criticism and apply it to your new and improved product?
Brian: Basically, it all happened in the next 24 hours. I went home, got on TechCrunch.com – still frustrated from the outcome of Startup Weekend – and started to brainstorm.
My main question was how could I make money off of MyCampus, and so I thought of existing services such as Amazon, EBay and Craigslist. I researched their transaction fees and made it a point to make MyCampus a cheaper option. Also, I didn’t want MyCampus to be separated between universities; I wanted just one central mobile application that numerous universities could access, because most universities have another university within a few miles. Nobody cares if you’re buying a couch from somebody here or at the next university over. So we eliminated those restrictions.
Also, we added a social aspect to the application. We added an “Instagram” design, so that you can see what’s being sold, and where it’s being sold. Currently we’re in the process of adding a buyer/seller review aspect, also.
Briagenn: What advice would you give this year’s Startup Weekend participants?
Brian: If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have put so much emphasis on the very tiny details because you don’t have that much time to really get all that information out during the 5-minute pitch. You need to focus on the major core factors involved and paint that broad picture so that your audience can understand what exactly you’re aiming for.
If you still want to participate in Startup Weekend Athens Ohio from October 18-20, visit its website and register today!