Student-launched Craigslist clone for students, expands to six schools across the country

| News Editor

Symblia, a new student business, allows undergraduates to purchase and sell items and services, much like Craigslist. Courtesy of Symblia

Symblia, a new student business, allows undergraduates to purchase and sell items and services, much like Craigslist.

A budding business run by two Washington University undergraduates is the second student business similar to Craigslist to launch on campus in the past year.

Symblia was created by juniors Seth Einbinder and Jordan Zipkin earlier this semester. Similar to BazaarBoy, a site launched last May by six University students, it features an online market for students to buy or sell merchandise or services without the security concerns of Craigslist.

Craigslist has received significant media attention over the past week after three men were killed after responding to a job-wanted ad in Ohio.

While BazaarBoy is taking a hiatus from marketing as it prepares its product for a major 2.0 revamp in January, Symblia is spreading to a number of campuses around the country.

Symblia, which students sign up for by entering their student email addresses, has been active at Washington University and the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for much of the semester, reaching a base of about 200 students at each school. On Monday, it is opening for students at The College of New Jersey, University of Delaware, University of Ottawa and the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Einbinder said the schools were selected based on the colleges his friends from home attended, and places he knows have a strong community that would allow the business to take off.

“It’s really a community-driven site; it’s really just engaging the campus community…allowing them to get the things they need from people they trust,” he said. “We really didn’t have anything like that here in place, and I decided I would be the one to do it.”

Einbinder said he personally sold both a calculator and textbook on the site, and noted that the inventory is consistently increasing. Currently, he noted the site includes listings for textbooks, a TV stand, a bike repair service, lamps and GameCube controllers.

By serving just students and having them make their own deals, Einbinder said Symblia manages to avoid the security risks of sites such as Craigslist.

“You won’t get killed on Symblia,” he said. “[On Symblia] people know, if they’re buying and selling things, exactly who they’re buying [them from] or selling them to.

“We provide the means to get to the transaction…We don’t process any sort of payment information online; you figure out your own time and meet up.”

He said he hopes that business will pick up between the fall and spring semesters, with students looking to sell their old books and pick up new supplies.

“We’re really excited, because it’s the textbook rush right now, so we’re hoping [students] will put up their textbooks,” he said. “This is a Wash. U.-only thing, so you have a really focused market.”

BazaarBoy Chief Marketing Officer, junior Eric Hamblett, said that while some around him have expressed concern at the similarity between the two businesses, he relishes the competition.

“They’ve kind of [gotten under] my skin—that they saw what we did and came out with their own six months later, but it’s only pushed us to go harder,” Hamblett said. “We have a higher site ranking, people use us more. But that being said, no one really uses either right now. Neither’s dominating.”

He added that the updated BazaarBoy, coming in the spring, will play up the “bazaar” metaphor in an effort to differentiate the site from Symblia.

“We’re gong to basically revolutionize the way campus interaction occurs, and that’s not through just buying things—that’s through events, local businesses and services,” he said. “We’re looking to go beyond the marketplace, because marketplaces can be dry. If you don’t find what you want to buy…your time on the site is very minimal. We’re expanding the marketplace model to a community model.”

Students generally voiced ambivalent opinions toward the idea of a Craigslist clone exclusively for college students.

“I think the website would be good for move-in and move-out days for people to sell their stuff, but I don’t think it’ll be that useful during the school year,” senior Natalie Rufat said.

Others noted that while such a site may be superior to Craigslist, they do not necessarily think they will be taking advantage of it.

“I don’t think I would use [the website], but I think it might be safer than Craigslist,” senior Katherine Foster said.

With additional reporting by Wei-Yin Ko.

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