Del Mar: Local entrepreneurs’ website SwoopThat.com helps students save on textbooks
By Karen Billing
On average, an American college student spends about $900 a year on college textbooks. SwoopThat.com, a website started by two local men, hopes to save people about 50 percent on textbooks and make the process a whole lot easier and less time-consuming.
The site offers price comparisons on textbooks for 145 schools across the nation, saving customers the hassle of a lengthy online quest.
SwoopThat has all the 145 schools’ courses and course book requirements loaded up. Once users log in their courses, the site then “swoops” the best prices from every major online book retailer.
“We’re exceeding my expectations,” said Johnny Simkin, CEO. “I wasn’t expecting to support the number of schools we have.”
“I wish we had [this option] when we were in college,” added Benjamin Carson, COO.
Simkin, 23, and Carson, 26, have been friends since “before they can remember,” growing up together on the border of Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe. Simkin met partners Kevin King, CTO (Chief Technology Officer), and Sam Hollaran, computer engineer, while attending Harvey Mudd College—Carson went to Claremont Colleges’ Pomona College and in 2010 graduated from University of San Diego School of Law.
The SwoopThat site doesn’t sell books, it simply offers price transparency, Simpkin said. They are the only website to offer an “internal cart,” meaning you load books onto your cart on SwoopThat and they are waiting to be purchased in a cart on the bookseller’s site.
SwoopThat can also find rentable books, e-books and free digital textbooks when they are available.
“(Customers) love it,” said Simkin. “It basically reduces a 30-minute task to five to 10 minutes and you’re guaranteed to get the best deal.”
The group hopes to soon expand its offerings to private high schools such as Simkin’s alma mater San Diego Jewish Academy.
The friends created a site just for Harvey Mudd courses offering textbook price comparisons. Within four days, 30 percent of the student body was using their site.
Seeing how successful it was, they decided to try and bring the service to a much larger audience.
SwoopThat gets a percentage of each book sale and can also work with schools to get money from textbooks sales to go back to the college in some way. For example, at Harvey Mudd, students saved $66,000 on books while more than $1,000 was raised for their student body association.
Their company goal is to hit 1,000 schools on their site and for Swoop to become a verb in popular vernacular—just as people “Google it,” Simkin hopes students will “Just SwoopThat.”
Finding the course textbook lists for various colleges is fairly easy, Carson said, since the Higher Education Opportunity Act was enacted in 2008, requiring schools to make their textbook lists public.
“The challenging part is taking different data formats and getting it together in a readable format,” Carson said.
That part is King’s job, working hard into the early morning hours.
“I’m usually going to sleep when my friends are waking up,” he admits.
The other partners are logging 12-hour days, as well, in an office in Simkin’s home, also giving up their weekends to grow their business.
“That’s what start-ups are all about,” Carson said.
Visit swoopthat.com to find your school or buy cheap books.
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