With the goal of creating a valuable platform to sell and exchange products on campus, two freshmen in the World Bachelor Business Program launched Agora, a streamlined marketplace for USC students, in Spring 2019. The website lets USC students sell and exchange goods on campus.
Since Jacob Pielke and Ethan Aspin are leaving USC to study in Hong Kong as part of the WBB program, the duo wanted to make an impact on the University by using their entrepreneurship skills to benefit students.
“We both had similar [ideas] and thought this was a platform that was needed — so we decided to make it ourselves,” Pielke said. “We saw some great user growth and retention, but we are ending our beta platform at the end of this month to begin working on our next platform over the summer.”
The beta version of Agora was launched as a minimum value product to test the market. The creators found that Agora was valuable to the USC community and hope to scale it up in the second version by improving marketing strategies.
“Marketing is something I personally neglected in the beginning, but I’ve come to realize its importance because it promotes your platform,” Aspin said. “We were featured on the Instagram page for our World Bachelor Business Program. They’ve helped us with publicizing Agora, and we’ve been marketing by posting stories on Instagram and Snapchat.”
Pielke said that the Agora team’s goals include streamlining the whole experience, improving user interaction within the site and potentially developing an app.
“Long term, we are hoping to expand to other universities around the U.S., but that’s much further down the line,” Aspin said. “Agora is a niche market because it is safe, reliable and trustworthy unlike platforms such as Craigslist. By providing something specialized for campuses, we are creating a reliable platform because students feel safer selling to each other.”
Pielke and Aspin manage the day-to-day operations for Agora.
The two occasionally reach out to members of the WBB and entrepreneurs from Blackstone Launchpad, a campus resource that offers individualized coaching to student entrepreneurs for advice on how to improve marketing strategies, increase user retention and publicize the creation.
Although both are studying business, Pielke focuses on coding and development while Ethan specializes in Photoshop and design.
“Nowadays, businesses need specialists from every field to contribute to the one project and create something valuable.” Aspin said.
Aspin said entrepreneurship comes with a lot of responsibility.
“Creating a business is a lot harder than one may think,” Aspin said. “You have to put all the aspects you learn from business administration into one package, which is something people tend to forget. When most people think of entrepreneurship, they think of new ideas and ignore everything else that goes into it.”