Possibility for drone testing

Students all over can relate to the struggle with having to learn to balance being a full-time student, having a job, and learning how to budget their money as they step into this chapter of life that is adulthood.

Every year, each student is tasked with finding their books for classes, and of course, the cheaper the better. Everyone seems to have their own preferred method of finding the “cheapest” book out there, Chegg, SlugBooks, Amazon, college bookstores, etc.

Out of all of these options, there seems like there is no designated app for this, which is surprising considering how there seems to be an app for almost everything now a days.

Problem

According to an American Enterprise Institute, think tank, reported textbook prices have increased 812 percent just in the past 30 years. It’s no secret to students in college that textbooks are expensive and the prices seem to never decrease, but for some students this adds up fast. College Board puts the average cost of textbooks with school materials at $1,168 per year.

Founder of LiberWave and once an MSU student Jacob Reola started selling his old books and notes with them to students for a cheaper price. He would stand outside the bookstore and target students who would go in and try to buy the same thing he was selling. He said he saw a potential for a business in buying and selling textbooks, and renting them ended being more when the costs were added up and compared.

“It started when [I was in the MSU bookstore buying books] my freshman year, and then you realize you can buy it cheaper on Amazon or Chegg,” Reola said. “But when you buy a used textbook, University bookstores don’t give you a lot in return. You get a $100 textbook and they give you like $10 or $15 in return. That opted me to rent, but then I realized renting sucked too because when I use Chegg I would get charged hidden fees or late fee, even when it was on time.”

Reola said he wondered why there wasn’t a business out there that catered to this aspect of the potentials with buying and selling books and getting your money’s worth, so he decided to create one. He started a company, now known as LiberWave, which he hopes to be the first on-demand textbook app.

“There’s no app out there for textbooks for universities to connect with other university students in a central location. You can sell your notes, network, and talk about your professors. Compared to just going to Amazon and waiting for the shipping and handling, because [with LiberWave] we eliminate shipping and handling, and it’s all sourced locally. The idea behind it is to have students make more money when buying a textbook, to network with other students, and save money when buying a textbook,” Reola said.

The process of creating a Solution

Reola started the process of trying to get his idea out there in June, but said he was working alone and had  he didn’t have anyone to work with or any technical founders, so he started by talking to his brother, Josh Reola, technical founder of LiberWave, to help him out.

“I went to him because he knows the technical work, he is 10 years older, he knows the technical industry of technology and business,” Reola said.

Reola said they added two of their other members to their team of five at Start-Up Weekend EDU in Austin. There Reola said he found Sarah Munir, marketing manager for LiberWave, and Alejandro Diaz, who helps with programming for LiberWave.

At a different entrepreneur conference event called Next Gen Summit in Austin, he found their app programmer, who is from Canada and working with his team now to build the app, he also said the app programmer wished to keep his name out of it.

“I pitched my idea to group of educator and investors and two investors and they liked the idea and told me to pursue it and at that event I got to meet up with other students who had similar ideas about textbooks and we picked two of them up,” Reola said.

As of right now the team has been using their own money, and has spent close to $200 to get this app started, but Reola said that when it comes to launch the app they will have to pay $1,700 to get it started.

“So far in these past five months we have probably spent less than $200, just to get the front end, which is the [website] looks right now,” Reola said.

The process for the team has come with its challenges, and Reola said financial issues were just the part of it. Other issues the team has run into have been dealing with FAA regulations since they eventually want to use drones with their app, and making sure they follow the procedures to do this right. Another one that Reola said he know he will run into is changing the mindset of students from renting to buying and selling.

“[An obstacle will be] changing the behavior that students think that renting is the better options for textbooks and that’s not always the case. The best way I can explain that is if you bought a $100 textbook and there is one used for $100 and one rented for lets say $50, chances are you are going to go with the $50 one because it is cheaper, and it is the best option you have at the time because you can’t afford the $100. Say you got your hands on that $100 book, you could sell it back for $100 to another student or sell it for $50, and you have a profit going on there,” Reola said.

Right now Reola said that the team has been working and has a website up to promote the coming of the app version. He said students could go onto and type the ISBN number and just hit buy on the one students want to buy, and it is by location, so they can see where they are and meet up with them somewhere or message them to find out more on a class and exchange notes. Reola want this to be an opportunity for students to network with each other.

Possibilities for MSU that come with using LiberWave

He also said they are also in the process of working with drone companies with hopes to eventually get drones out to Midwestern State to test them out. The plan would be to use the drones as a way of transporting books from seller to buyer or vice versa.

“Texas changed their FAA laws, so basically, people can fly drones if it is mostly for educational purposes and testing at Universities, so we are under that wing,” Reola said.

According to Reola, as of now there only six places in the United States and about three universities that have FAA approval for drone testing, including Texas A&M-Corpus Cristi. He said the reason he wants to get the drone companies to work with him and get approved to test them with his app is because it would eliminate the shipping and handling fee and it would ship right to the buyer without having to wait days for it. He said it would speak to student’s laziness.

“We are talking to the as well and they are interested, and so far the only way we can get the drones here is if we can show that we have users on our app. The reason why they want to use the drones is because when it comes to beta testing they don’t want to test for a long amount of time, they want to use a dense area and one of the best places are universities, and they want to use it in a short amount of time and that’s during textbook season” Reola said.

Right now Reola is looking into finding a network at Midwestern to talk to about this, specifically in the engineering department. He said that he is planning a lunch with drone companies in January, and if they have a decent amount of users at Midwestern then the sooner the drone companies will be willing to test it out here.

“So far we have 2,000 subscribers at University of Texas, and right now they are starting to market it at Midwestern,” Reola said.

Reola said he wants people to know that Midwestern is where it all started. He was a freshman buying books in the bookstore, just like everyone else, and in his junior year he came up with an idea and pursued it. Right now Reola is taking time away from school to pursue this website, and he said he doesn’t know if or when he will go back, it all just depends on how this app goes.

“I’m young, so why not,” Reola said.

The team’s short term goals for this app is get it marketed at their target universities and have buyers and sellers on the website. Their long term goals, Reola said, would be to keep expanding to other universities and if the drone companies wants to partner up, then to integrate with drones.

The app will be uploaded to the app store Dec. 24 and within a week or two it should be up in the app store for students to download, it will be free to download.