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Innovation + Job News

Startup NakedTextbooks launched by local university student

Many times, entrepreneurial inspiration comes from seeing a gap in a specific chain of supply and demand. For University of Minnesota student Benjamin Hohl, that gap was filled with textbooks.
As a freshman, Hohl learned that the average college student spends about $900 per year on textbooks, and receives significantly less than that when selling them back to a campus bookstore. For example, Hohl bought a $200 psychology textbook, and sold it back for $15.
"I wondered why there wasn't a better system to connect students who had the books with those who were willing to buy them," he says. "I thought: why not localize it? We all take the same classes, so why shouldn't we connect with each other to get what we need?"
A few years later, the idea came back to him over a holiday break, and he put together a rough website called TextExchange, which he later changed to the "more catchy" NakedTextbooks. After rebuilding the site several times and adding more functionality, he launched recently and had 2,500 site visitors in the first week. The startup has brought on two other university students to expand its marketing efforts.
The setup is simple: users arrange book exchanges in person, stating how much they'd charge for their used textbooks. Hohl anticipates that the service will always be free for users, but will be monetized by local advertising, especially from potential meet-up sites like coffee shops.
Based on how well the site does at the U. of M. in the near future, Hohl expects that NakedTextbooks could roll out to several more campuses next fall, and expand beyond that in subsequent semesters. In addition to textbooks, he sees the site becoming a major exchange point for students, who could buy and sell items like futons or dorm furniture. Eventually, there could even be subscription fees from universities themselves, he believes.
"We think we have a service that's valuable, and at some point, we'll see a revenue stream," Hohl says. "In the meantime, we're just excited about the different directions this could go."
Source: Benjamin Hohl, NakedTextbooks
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
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