Senior business major Takuya Oka might be the next Craig Newmark. Like the San Franciscan internet entrepreneur who founded Craigslist.org, Oka recently founded an online classified site for everything from selling bicycles to finding new roommates and even searching for romance. Unlike Craigslist, however, Oka’s site USFlist.org caters exclusively to USF students.
Oka first felt the need for this site when he wanted to find a roommate last year but didn’t want to search within the entire city; he wanted to live with a fellow student who would reside near campus and share a similar lifestyle. He also wanted to sell some textbooks, but the bookstore wouldn’t buy them and he didn’t want the hassle of selling online. On the Internet, he said, “It’s kind of sketchy. You never know if you can really trust them.”
When his Internet applications class prompted him to create a web-based business, Oka found the perfect opportunity to make his vision a reality. The first half of the class was spent learning how to make a website and the second half was spent actually doing it.
The class came to an end and Oka earned an A on the project, but he wasn’t done. He decided to buy the domain name USFlist.org and put the site online. With a little viral marketing via Facebook and old-fashioned word-of-mouth, the site was launched.
Since the site launched in May, students have used the site primarily for housing and textbooks. Oka said he is happy with the amount of use the site has been getting. Though he cannot see exactly how many transactions have been made, he can see the amount of traffic and who is getting replies on their postings.
Junior Jackie McIntosh recently posted on USFlist seeking to fill the rooms that will be vacant this spring when her roommates study abroad. Using USFlist was ideal for her situation, she said, because she hoped to find students studying abroad this semester who would need housing in the spring. McIntosh said, “I also advertised on Craigslist, but I am hoping that USFlist works out better so that I can deal with USF students rather than strangers.”
Though senior Andrew Ghassemi said he did not have any luck using USFlist when he was searching for textbooks this semester, he sees many advantages to having a USF classified site. “The pros are that you can find specific things or sell things t are related to a like-minded community. Another pro is that you don’t have to travel across the city to get your items, instead you just meet someone on campus.”
Oka said he hopes students learn to utilize all the features of the site. “Student organizations on campus can be utilizing the events section,” he said. Also, the infamous “missed connections” section remains untouched, even though it was requested by one of the members of the USFlist Facebook group.
As of now, Oka has no way of making profits on this business venture. “Craigslist charges for some of their ads, which is how they make money,” Oka said, “But if we charged, no one would use it.” For now, he is maintaining the site for fun. When he graduates, his roommate may take over for him, and after that, he doesn’t know. Later on, Oka said he has considered selling it to another company, or maybe even to the University, depending on interest.