Binghamton University students who usually turn to GroupMe chats and Facebook pages when seeking out textbook rentals or rides home for Thanksgiving break, may have a new favorite app in the works. TruNeed, a free app developed by BU students, allows users to securely rent, purchase or sell goods and services to people in their area.
TruNeed consists of two categories for users to create posts: iHave and iNeed. Users who need to borrow or buy something can create an iNeed post, while users who are looking to lend or sell something can create an iHave post. When searching for a potential seller or buyer through TruNeed, users can choose to view posts within a certain mile radius of their location. Upon finding someone who needs something they have, or has something they need, users can contact the person for details.
“It creates a shared economy, which is kind of the new thing,” said one of the app’s creators, Anthony Tapias, a junior majoring in financial economics. “You see apps like Toro, where you can rent cars, and [TruNeed] is something where you can rent anything.”
Security is a top priority for TruNeed’s moderators. The app employs Stripe, a software platform that allows individuals and online businesses to transfer money online. When a borrower rents an item, a deposit is taken from their account and held in the app moderator’s account. When the lender receives the item back, they can hit the refund button to transfer the deposit back to the borrower’s account. Any fees that are then owed for borrowing the item are drawn from the borrower’s account after the deposit is returned.
On other online business platforms, like Craigslist, Inc., the anonymity of users has proven to be a safety issue, and TruNeed’s creators wanted to eliminate that concern. Users can only log in through Facebook, which allows them to view the names, profile pictures and past posts of other users. There is also a spam button in case of illegal materials or services being bought and sold through the app. If an item is lost, stolen or damaged, a report can be filed and an email is sent to the moderators so they can investigate the situation.
Tapias and Hamza Syed, ‘15, came up with the idea for TruNeed after seeing people use their fraternity’s GroupMe to borrow, lend, buy and sell items. Along with Jianqiu Huang, ‘16, the team’s first coder, they began working on the app a year and a half ago in May 2015. Tapias and Syed eventually pitched their idea to BU President Harvey Stenger, who put them into contact with Per Stromhaug, assistant vice president of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships.
Stromhaug was able to set them up with an office in Old Rafuse Hall. Their startup’s marketing and business team has since expanded to include Miriam Avrutin, a sophomore double-majoring in English and philosophy, politics and law; Annie Beyer, a sophomore majoring in psychology; Jack O’Brien, a junior majoring in business administration; Navpreet Randhawa, a junior double-majoring in accounting and mathematics; Ryan Marto, a senior double-majoring in accounting and business administration; and Jiahui Wang, a sophomore majoring in business administration. The team is currently looking for BU computer science majors to join them.
They first started with Facebook advertisements because they were relatively cheap and could reach a large audience. However, this approach was not as successful as they hoped it would be; after spending $2,000, the app only got around 150 downloads. After doing some research, they realized that other app startups had run into similar problems. The team’s current plan of action is to advertise through Greek Life and social events. This Saturday, the TruNeed team will be hosting a free keg at The Rathskeller to celebrate their launch. It hopes that word will spread throughout the BU community, expanding to the Northeast and eventually nationwide.
Tapias hopes that its popularity will exceed the boundaries of college campuses. He hopes that the app may someday be widely used by travelers who need to borrow or buy emergency items while staying in an unfamiliar city.
“A long-term goal is to have ads in the airport for travelers,” he said, “This could be the go-to app for emergencies.”