In 2004, Duy Le walked into his new boarding school in Maine with only a backpack on his shoulder and enough English to say, “Hi. I am here.”
He had lost his luggage during the two-day journey from Vietnam, and all Duy wanted was a shower. Not understanding a word his adviser was saying, 14-year-old Duy pointed to himself, then to the bathroom. Not knowing how to operate an American faucet, Duy was welcomed to the U.S. with an icy shower.
Like many Vietnamese parents, Duy’s mom and dad sent him abroad for a more advanced education with the hopes that he could return and help improve Vietnam.
Now in his third semester at Temple, Duy not only speaks English rather fluently, but he also has started his own business.
In April 2010, after his first semester at Temple, Duy was making the typical move from on-campus dorm to rented apartment. He was in need of some furniture, but searching Craigslist and eBay, he was discouraged by the chaotic format and lack of security in Internet trading.
That’s when Duy came up with the concept for WhatsOnCampus.com, a Temple-specific online marketplace where students can buy, sell and trade items with fellow students. Duy pitched his idea to his best friend and fellow student, Andrew Napoli, who immediately jumped on board. The two recruited a couple of IT students, and DAVA Group was formed. The website was up and running within months.
Featuring anything from used textbooks and electronics to apartment rentals and sublets, WhatsOnCampus.com is a hybrid of Craigslist’s accessibility and eBay’s security with the convenience of a local marketplace.
Duy is not just a proprietor – he is also a satisfied customer. He recently sold two of his textbooks on the site, and one of his partners sold his cell phone. But as the site gains popularity, Duy is intent on keeping his initial promise to provide the service for free.
DAVA Group utilizes university connections to market the site, making promotional appearances at campus events and student groups, and reaching out to other Temple websites and organizations. DAVA Group also plans to compete in this year’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl, which awards more than $115,000 to the most promising business plan.
While WhatsOnCampus.com doesn’t have as much capital or as large of a workforce as other major market sites, Duy isn’t letting that hinder his plans for the site’s growth. Like Facebook, it might just be the next site to swarm universities across the country.
“I wanted to do something for myself and for Temple,” Duy said. “My goal is to get this website into every campus.”
– Meg Hughes
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