Seniors develop GW web portal cheaper, better, quicker than SA’s

A year waiting for a campaign-promised online trading Web site was too long for five seniors. So in less than a month’s time and without spending $11,000 of student funds, they created their own exchange site. Last April, when senior Audai Shakour was elected Student Association president, he promised a versatile online trading portal where students could buy, sell and trade various items. A year later that site is not complete, but students developed, a site with many of the same features as Shakour’s never-delivered Colonial Trader.

“We knew the SA Web site hadn’t happened, and we knew we could do it better,” co-founder Benjamin Havlin said. “Shakour was the impetus.”

Since April 10, students have posted 73 items including textbooks, furniture, electronics, DVDs and tutor services. Havlin founded the site with seniors Jonathan Hakakian, Mohamed Elmeshad and Jared Kiraly, who programmed it.

Students use their GW e-mail address when buying, selling or trading items free of charge on the exchange Web site. To protect privacy, the site does not provide sellers’ e-mail addresses to buyers until sellers respond to the offer presented. Once a seller approves the sale, the buyer and seller meet to exchange the item. Havlin said the site uses advertisements to fund the operational costs of the site.

In August 2005, Shakour signed an $11,000 contract with SwapSwop to create the Colonial Trader Web site, currently, which was supposed to launch in September 2005.

Since September, the SA has been plagued by setbacks to the site that SA officials blame on the developers and the developers blame on the SA submitting its first payment for the site a month late.

In January Shakour ann-ounced the launch of and opened a prototype site to select student organizations for trial use. But the full site was never officially launched. Casey Pond, Shakour’s vice president of public affairs, said that while he is happy the service is now available to students through the exchange site, he wishes the SA had been involved in its creation.

“We hoped we could make the site an SA initiative,” Pond, a sophomore, said. “But, in the end, we just wanted this service.”

Pond said he hopes SA President-elect Lamar Thorpe, a junior, will work with the site’s founders to create a partnership between the SA and the site. Kirk Haldeman, Thorpe’s chief of staff, said the SA president-elect plans to meet with the creators to discuss if the SA will endorse the site.

“I am excited that students created a Web site by themselves instead of spending thousands of dollars for a Web site,” said Haldeman, a sophomore.

Ultimately, Havlin hopes the site will be for more than trading goods and services and will open the doors for other student entrepreneurs.

“Beyond the trading aspects of the site, we are trying to foster student businesses,” said Havlin who hopes students will begin using the site to advertise services and make a profit by selling items. “It would be cool to give them an outlet.”

The site’s founders said they have a plan to expand the existing site to include blogs, forums, calendars, book lists, syllabi, course reviews and text-messaging – all features the Colonial Trader Web site was advertised to offer. Havlin said expansion will depend on the popularity of the site in the fall.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.