Today, Chris Haynes, Vice President of Business Development at Campus Shift, joined us to speak about the Akron, OH-based start up that recently received $25k from the regional Innovation Fund (read here) to develop its website and mobile applications connecting students with their campuses to search and save on textbooks.
FinSMEs: Hello Chris, thank you for joining us. First, can you tell us a something about Campus Shift?
Chris: Campus Shift is a company that was created by college students, for college students and each of our founders is either a recent graduate or is currently still attending school. Basically, we all knew the hardships students have to face with the continuing growth of college expenses and decided to build a company that would help ease that pain.
FinSMEs: How did you come up with the idea of creating the company?
Chris: The original thought for Campus Shift was started by our CEO Derek Haake. When he graduated college he was stuck with nearly $100,000 in loans after pursuing three degrees and wanted to create a way to make college more affordable. He launched a company called BookDefy in 2006 which was designed to help students cut their annual $1000 textbook bill substantially. In September of 2011, I met Derek at an angel investor meeting and we decided to join forces to help spawn the idea of Campus Shift by taking the original concept of helping students save on textbooks and to build a total savings solution. From there we added a few more members to our team and in just over 3 months we launched the company in February of 2012.
FinSMEs: What is it? How does it work?
Chris: Campus Shift allows students to save money and make money through the website’s social network. Students save money by buying and selling their textbooks directly to each other for a fair price, and also using our search engine to find the best new, used, ebook and rental textbook prices. The search engine also shows the best buyback prices. Second, students save by getting discounts and deals from local campus businesses they buy from every day. Students don’t have to spend any money to get these deals; they just have to print the digital coupon from the site. Students can also make money by taking quality class notes and uploading them on the website to our online marketplace. Businesses on campus are integral to Campus Shift, because they provide a public place for students to meet up and deliver their textbooks to other students. Further, these businesses, while helping students fight against high textbook prices can also cost effectively offer students discounts at their business and keep them informed of their events on campus. This helps students stay connected and saves them – every day – while they are in college.
FinSMEs: What’s your business model?
Chris: Campus Shift’s business model is to connect students to savings. The company does not currently make any money when students buy and sell textbooks to each other, but does receive a small commission when these students buy and sell their textbooks back through our online textbook search engine. Because we are also able to help businesses advertise to students, the company charges businesses – who have to apply and be approved to be part of our community – to post events and discounts within the community – for as little as $4 per day.
FinSMEs: Could you introduce us the other team members?
Chris: Our management team consists of Derek Haake who has been a principle and consultant at three startups, 12 years’ web application development, along with his JD and MBA. Zac Sebo graduated from Ohio University, and has been a part of 3 startups within the college student market. Chris Haynes is a startup veteran as well who has 7 years’ of marketing/sales experience. Darren Mills is a serial entrepreneur and UX professional with previous experience in the startup industry.
FinSMEs: How are you using the funding from the Innovation Fund?
Chris: The company is going to use this money to further develop a few new features, and to prepare these features for a nationwide launch in August.
FinSMEs: Will you try to raise venture capital?
Chris: At this point, we are considering all options and are always looking for opportunities that make sense. If there is a chance for investment that will help quickly grow the company, then of course we are more then willing to discuss.
FinSMEs: Could you tell me something about future plans?
Chris: What we would like to do is continue to find ways to help make college – as our logo says – 50% more affordable and 100% more fun. With student debt and limited job prospects in the future, students need all the help they can get, and fundamentally we created Campus Shift to help students. We also wanted to find ways to help bring the Internet into the “real world”, and we think that we can do this with Campus Shift. Unlike other companies out there, Campus Shift is really focused on what is going on, what is happening, and we envision it to be a catalyst to allow more people to meet up, interact and otherwise have fun in real life, instead of being caught up in the virtual world.