For Penn students who want to share a cab or buy and sell secondary items with other students, a Penn version of Craigslist might serve their needs.
Launched by three first-year Wharton MBA students — John Li, Jeff Zhou and Ilya Bezdelev — PennList.co provides an online marketplace for goods and services within the community, from cameras and textbooks to cab sharing.
Li said although the site has only been active since the beginning of October, it already has over 500 users and about 100 postings.
Each user needs to sign into their account via their Penn email address and has the ability to post or remove their items or services. Buyers can send an email to the seller via an embedded text form on the website, and the seller will respond to coordinate the exchange if they are interested.
The most recent function — cab sharing — was launched for students traveling during Thanksgiving. Users can click on a Google map embedded on the site to put in their location and leaving time. The system will generate a list of people leaving before that time and the user can choose which cab to join, which will send an email to everyone in the cab to coordinate.
“I was able to find a cab in less than 30 seconds of signing up, which was totally awesome,” said Isabelle Park, a Wharton MBA candidate who recently used the function.
“In the long run, we want this to be a place not just for buying and selling things,” Li said, “but a place where you can meet people and provide services that are not provided elsewhere, like a portal.” One of the ideas he and his co-founders are exploring is an online dating feature for the website, which Li said could be beneficial for graduate students.
The team also looked into various online markets, such as a Wharton-exclusive platform for exchanging goods, before ultimately deciding to build PennList.co. Bezdelev, one of the site’s co-founders, said none of the websites they encountered provided the same capabilities “Penn’s Craigslist” now offers.
The site currently does not maintain seller profiles or request feedback from users about each exchange, but these are both possibilities for the future.
“It works in a very close network,” Bezdelev said. “People use their real name and real email address, so people have more trust here than on Craigslist and Ebay.”
However, he pointed out that there have been some problems starting up the site.
“The biggest challenge is to get over the network effect: People only use it when other people use it as well,” he said.
“The idea works for everyone, but you need to convince people that when you think about buying or selling things, go to PennList first,” Li agreed.
Li said they have no plan to monetize the site in the short term.
“For us, this is a fun project we can do for the community, but also a team building experience,” Li said. “For a lot of my Wharton classmates who want to start something, I would just say, go and do it. Think less, do more.”
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.