Buying and selling on sites like Craigslist can include taking a leap of faith for its users. Do you trust a random person you’ve never met to come into your home and pay for an old futon you hoped would make you some extra cash?
For local entrepreneur and UNCW senior Geoff Fox, the concept behind his new web-based student marketplace Flippze (pronounced “Flip-zee”) – or the “Craigslist for colleges” – is to provide a service for college students in an area where he believes online marketplaces like Craigslist fall short, a focus on user safety. With the free online service Flippze, users must create a profile with an email address associated with a college or university already registered within the site, generating a marketplace intended for only students, staff, and faculty.
Currently housed in the entrepreneurial incubator of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE)— the student re-sell site where students can trade, sell, buy or “flip” anything from textbooks to Magic cards— is receiving name drops from national publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc. magazines and will soon become active in 32 college campuses across the Southeast in September.
Fox, a 26-year old Army veteran, credits the idea behind Flippze to his wife. “We wanted to get married and I needed to make some extra money to pay for the wedding so I bought and sold things on Craigslist,” says Fox. “After nine months I made almost $20,000.”
During this period of constant “flipping” of items for profit Fox began to realize how potentially unsafe he was being— buying from people he didn’t know, meeting in places he’d never been.
“Flippze separates itself from other online market places because we stress safety first and foremost. We want students to know who they’re buying from, and do so in a safe environment,” said Fox.
The dependence on user profiles associated with university email addresses allows for Flippze to track any issues back to the source if they occur. More importantly, the user profiles provide background information from previous transactions—similar to services such as Uber.
“For users of the site, it provides a sense of security and along with accountability. You can see who this person is, and whether they’re trustworthy or not,” said Fox.
Along with these strict user profiles, Flippze charges a $2 convenience fee for each transaction and partners with specific meeting locations like local consignment stores and coffee shops to provide a safe environment for a transaction. According to Fox, these coalitions with local businesses will allow them to participate on Flippze with “merchant accounts,” enabling a partnering business to also advertise their goods to users on the site.
This site also features a comparison tool, so users can plug in the item they want to sell or buy and see competing prices along with other offers. By the end of the year Flippze will release a mobile app for IOS and Android.
After a beta test conducted at UNCW this past spring, Flippze currently has 364 users registered just within the UNCW and CFCC campuses. The initial success of the site has schools throughout the Southeast such as Duke, UNC, Virginia, and Virginia Tech signing on to partner with the local company—offering the service to their students starting September 1. Fox expects to have almost 100 more schools signed up with an average of almost 300 students per school participating in the program.
“It’s been a long journey and there’s been so many people along the way who have helped me, including Flippze’s co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Wilson Bridgett and of course my incredibly patient wife,” said Fox. “But it’s been my mentors I’ve met while at the CIE who’ve introduced me to the right people and helped me learn the lessons I need to know while creating this business.”
One of those mentors is former CIE director Jim Roberts, who introduced Fox to Tom Looney, a former industry director for Microsoft and Pete Clow, former senior executive of AT&T.
“There’s this trend in e-commerce and social networking making for a new wave of businesses to utilize a social commerce, and this movement is going to take off,” said Looney.
Looney’s worked a number of high-profile gigs at several high-tech companies, including Oracle, Microsoft and Steve Jobs’ NeXT, where he worked with the Apple co-founder for six years.
“At this point it’s about execution and growing wisely—there’s no limit to what this can be. It’s up to them to beat out their competitors…Geoff’s a non-conventional college student and his level of maturity and professionalism made him incredibly likable since the first moment I met him,” said Looney
Looney revealed to Port City Daily he officially committed a financial investment in Flippze, something he does about once every three years.
“We’re a long way from knowing if their execution will make this rise to the top, but I trust that Geoff and his team can make it happen,” said Looney.
“The knowledge I’ve received from my mentors has been invaluable,” says Fox. “They’ve really helped our team focus and connected us to people in the industry who could be incredibly beneficial for our company’s growth this year.”
Fox will graduate from UNCW in December of this year, and expects to continue to grow the company locally. “My wife and I want to stay here, we want to grow this company in Wilmington and we hope to follow in the footsteps of companies like Next Glass…people here have scratched our backs we want to do the same for them”
For more information on Flippze you can visit the company’s website here.
James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD