Attention students! As you scramble to buy used textbooks and handy goods for back to school, you’ll want check out an app called Foro that makes this process seamless. Built by students for student, Foro is a student marketplace to easily and safely buy and sell items.
1. Who are you? Tell us about your business/core idea and what inspired you to create it.
I’m Ali Saheli, co-founder of Foro. Foro is a student marketplace that makes it easy and safe for university students to buy and sell their items. I created Foro last October when I needed to sell my snowboard and was frustrated with using the existing classifieds sites. The experience of buying and selling items was completely broken; I didn’t know who I was dealing with, people usually wanted to meet in inconvenient locations, and everyone was always short $10. I built a simple site that solved all these issues and told a few my friends in the UBC Ski and Board Club. After a couple of weeks there were a few hundred UBC students were using the site.
2. Why is this an app students should be especially downloading as school starts up again?
Students always have things that they don’t need which other students can use. This can be bikes, furniture, textbooks, electronics, and more. Foro is a simple iPhone app that lets students list their items in less than 10 seconds and connect with other students around them. We provide a great buying and selling experience where you know who you’re dealing with, which university they attend, and how many Facebook mutual friends you have.
3. How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Foro?
One of the main reasons that I moved to Vancouver was due to its entrepreneurship environment. Six months ago, my co-founder, Bio Cho, and I had no clue how to start a company but being in Vancouver’s startup community made all the difference. We joined Launch Academy and met other local start-ups and advisors. Since then, we’ve built our company, grown our user base, raised capital and we’re now hiring great talent for our team!
4. What kind of challenges has your team had to face and how have you mitigated them?
Building a marketplace is tough and we work extremely hard to understand our users and provide them with the best experience as possible. We believe in building a product that is simple, beautiful, and gets the job done.
5. What core problem are you specifically solving for Vancouverites?
We are helping Vancouver’s university students turn their unused items to cash. Every student can use a bit more money and help other students with their unused items. Also, with our raised capital we are hiring passionate and smart local engineers who want to work on exciting and fast pacing startup environment.
6. What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
There are many great entrepreneurs out there, but if I have to choose one, it would be Elon Musk. His determination and love for learning has inspired me to challenge myself everyday.
7. What Vancouver celebrity would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
I believe the young and hardworking people who spend their time working in coffee shops and dorm rooms – building amazing products, are more valuable to us than a celebrity. There are many excellent young entrepreneurs in Vancouver who will one day become celebrities themselves.
8. What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
The biggest risk in life is not taking any risk at all. People always wait for the right moment or perfect product, but some of the most successful ideas started out as the craziest ideas.
*End of interview*
I interviewed a very similar app last year and its interesting to see how new people are taking different approaches at this problem. It’s a crowded space and very tough to monetize but Foro seems to be onto something as they have convinced some investors to back up the company. Foro placed third place this week in a big pitch competition held by Launch Academy in Gastown. If you’re a student, no need to analyze this too much just focus on downloading Foro and getting your life together for school next week.
If you want to hear more about Ali’s story and how he raised $100k, check out his story here.
*Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to paul(at)vancitybuzz(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit*