Hartford, Connecticut, February 29, 2016 – Micah Onditi ’18 spent the summer after his first year at Trinity College learning how to create a smartphone application. The result of his efforts is Mivy, an app designed to help college students sell used textbooks to each other. The free app – which uses the catchy motto, “Sell Last Semester. Buy The Next.” – already has more than 200 registered users at colleges throughout the Northeast.
Early in the process of designing Mivy (pronounced “mih-vee”), Onditi did research by reading books about app creation. “You can look at an app and see that it’s very pretty, but there’s so much that goes into it,” he said. Building the app on his own took a lot of time and dedication. “Imagine a person in his room all of summer vacation, not going outside, just being on the computer,” Onditi said. “That’s how you do it.”
The Pennsylvania resident and New Jersey native is considering declaring computer science and economics as his major at Trinity, but he had not taken any such courses before being inspired to create Mivy. “Buying and selling books is a problem we face every semester. I just saw a problem that I wanted to try to solve,” Onditi said. “I have two older brothers and an older sister, so if there was something I needed when I was younger, my mom had already bought it for them, so I would just get it handed down to me. But now that I’m in college there’s really no form of that. I wanted to create some sort of connection that could do that.”
Mivy users must have a valid .edu e-mail address to sign up for an account. Students can post textbooks for sale and browse books for sale by other users. The sellers set the prices, but buyers can make offers lower than the listing price, leading to negotiations and affordable deals. “The really interesting thing about Mivy is that no other format that does negotiation style purchases lets you bid any price,” Onditi said. The sellers and buyers can also contact each other via direct in-app messaging. Buyers rate sellers at the end of each transaction based on their experience. Users are encouraged to reach the highest rating: a black diamond, which features prominently in Mivy’s logo.
By creating a direct connection between college students, Onditi believes that Mivy has advantages over other websites from which students often purchase or rent textbooks, such as Amazon, eBay, and Chegg. “You might make more than selling it somewhere else,” Onditi said. “It’s just a better alternative to other selling platforms.” Mivy receives 7 percent of each sale price, said Onditi, “which is still very competitive as compared to eBay, which charges 10 to 11 percent.”
As he has developed the app and started his business, Onditi has worked with mentors both at Trinity and in the city of Hartford. Professor of Computer Science Ralph Morelli offered Onditi some advice when the app was still in beta-testing. “At that point it had not been released yet,” Onditi said. “He was telling me some things I should do or watch out for, to help me avoid a learning curve. It was really great.”
Morelli was impressed that Onditi was able to teach himself the Objective-C programming language as he developed Mivy. “It's a nice piece of work,” Morelli said of the app.
Onditi has also been learning a lot from reSET, a Hartford non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the social enterprise sector. He was recently accepted into reSET’s Impact Accelerator program, which provides entrepreneurs with access to the knowledge, networks, and resources they need to grow their businesses.
“I’ve met with great people who have been helpful to brainstorm with me and offer advice on their experiences,” Onditi said. “They teach you so many things like fundraising, crowd funding, and customer discovery, which is so big. The mentors there have been where you are. That’s so important.”
To help spread the word about Mivy, Onditi has recruited “campus reps” at colleges including Trinity, the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, Rutgers University, Pennsylvania State University, and New Jersey City University.
Mivy is available to download for free from the iOS App Store here. For more information, visit Mivyapp.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Andrew J. Concatelli