Selling textbooks without the hassle of the haggle

Three McGill graduates soon to launch a textbook-selling app for Concordia and McGill

As the new semester rolls in, so does a new textbook-exchanging app. Venndor, founded by recent McGill graduates Anthony Heinrich, Julien Marlatt and Tynan Davis, is a classifieds app with the goal of helping students buy and sell textbooks without the need for haggling or negotiating prices.

The beta app, also known as the first version of the app, has been live for two months at McGill.  This period permitted the founders to see how people were using the app and make any necessary changes before officially launching it at both McGill and Concordia. In the time of the beta launch, the app helped students sell textbooks, but also household items such as lamps and furniture. The app will officially launch for McGill and Concordia in mid-January.

The idea started over a year ago when co-founders Heinrich and Marlatt were frustrated because they were having trouble getting a good price for textbooks they wanted to sell. “People would just negotiate with you and haggle with you back and forth on Facebook postings. It was frustrating because it would lead to a lot of wasted of time and it wasn’t enjoyable,” said Heinrich. The app started as a business class subject. The teammates thought about a concept where the buyer offers a price without being given a starting price by the seller. They liked the idea of the final selling price being the middle ground between what the buyer offered and the price the seller initially had in mind. Heinrich gave the example of wanting to sell a phone for a minimum of $20. If the buyer offers $40 upfront, then the final selling price would be $30 if they were using the Venndor app.

This idea inspired the app’s name. Venndor comes from the term Venn diagram—a diagram of two circles overlapping to create a smaller ovalish shape in the middle of the two. The selling price of the textbook is therefore the middle ground, or the middle area of the Venn diagram.

Graphic by Florence Yee
Graphic by Florence Yee

The app includes a bookmark page that acts as a kind of ‘buy later’ section for undecided students. There is also an instant messaging page for buyers and sellers to correspond and arrange a meeting time and place. Instant messaging ensures that students don’t necessarily have to give any of their personal information to purchase textbooks.

In the fall of 2015, after Heinrich and his teammates got good feedback from their professor for their app idea in a class project, the students decided to enter the McGill Dobson Cup, McGill’s annual startup competition.

“We made it to the semi-finals. The judges weren’t really into it but we decided to go after the idea anyway,” said Heinrich. Then, the students got accepted into the 2016 McGill Summer X-1 Accelerator program, an intensive 10-week summer program that helps students create their startup ideas through training programs and seminars. “The entire thing was a huge learning experience,” said Heinrich.

Heinrich said this year’s focus will be observing how students use the app, in order to start planning any changes to the version of the app launching soon.

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