Textbooks just a tap away Textbooks just a tap away
For many students new textbooks are prohibitively expensive, while second-hand books can be hard to find. Now Tamir Shklaz is making the process easier... Textbooks just a tap away

For many students new textbooks are prohibitively expensive, while second-hand books can be hard to find. Now Tamir Shklaz is making the process easier and more convenient with his digital platform Quillo, which connects buyers and sellers of second-hand university textbooks.

Shklaz, a third-year electrical and computer engineering student at UCT, relays a familiar experience: “On my first day of university I got a list of textbooks for my course. I looked online and saw that it would cost R1 300 for one book. I thought, ‘Wow, I can’t afford that.’ Someone suggested I get it second-hand, so I headed over to a notice board – which had a thousand notices on it, and was a mess. I finally found the book I was looking for, and it was already sold. I immediately thought that this should be an app.”

In January Shklaz pulled in three of his classmates, all “fans of coding, tech and problem-solving”. The four founding members of Quillo spent the month teaching themselves different programming languages and frameworks.

“Eventually we got things to work, and we went live on the first day of UCT in 2018. In the span of two weeks we got 2 000 downloads and transacted 500 textbooks, which was fantastic.”

Textbooks just a tap away

 

Said Shklaz: “When we released the app, it was just a noticeboard. Buyers and sellers would get in touch on WhatsApp and email. Now we are moving into a space where we will handle the payment and delivery of the textbooks. So the person will come into the app, search for the book, pay in the app, and then can either meet the seller in person or can choose to have the book delivered to them.”

In March Shklaz’s three co-founders pulled out of the project, and Tristan Brandt joined Quillo as the tech lead. He has taken responsibility for all the “technology stuff, and getting the app built”.

Brandt said: “I was literally just leaving my job and going into freelance development. I was looking for a start-up to join; looking for something to pour myself into.”

Quillo offered the perfect opportunity.

“The scalability appealed to me, and how easy it is to bring something like this to market. I was a student too, and I know the struggle. It’s such an amazing problem to solve.”

GSB MTN Solution Space

Also in March, Shklaz applied to present at UCT’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) e-Commerce Pitch Night. This is where South Africa’s top e-commerce start-ups pitch their ideas to a group of investors and judges.

“I was going through the form that asked questions like ‘How much money are you making?’ and ‘Who are your investors?’ ” he explained. “I didn’t have a LinkedIn profile; I had nothing. The day before the event I got a call to say I should come on through. So I presented at e-Commerce Pitch Night, and ended up winning the event.

“Then we started getting involved with the GSB MTN Solution Space, and just fell in love with the energy of the space. Tristan and I asked the GSB if we could have some office space for a hackathon where we [could] spend a weekend just building the app, and they said we should apply. So we sent through an application, and got accepted into their Ventures in Residence programme.

“This means that we have an office space where we’re surrounded by other start-ups. We were enthralled, and we were there every day, interacting with other start-ups. One day the manager says, ‘I think you bring such an incredible energy to the programme, we want you on the full-time programme.’ ”

“The lesson I’ve taken from it is to be present at places and give it your all, even if you’re not part of the full programme.”

The Quillo team joined the GSB’s full-time Venture Incubation Programme (VIP) in April this year.

According to Shklaz, “The programme started with 250 start-ups across South Africa and brought it down to 10 – and we were one of them, even though we joined a month late. It was so overwhelming. I’d be missing lectures to go to these classes.”

The culmination of the incubation programme was demo night on 26 June.

“Tamir killed the pitch. Everyone loved it,” said Brandt.

Shklaz continued: “There were three prizes, and we won the prize for the company that achieved the most in the programme. It was so surreal.

“The lesson I’ve taken from it is to be present at places and give it your all, even if you’re not part of the full programme.”

 

Textbooks just a tap away

Quillo founder Tamir Shklaz.

 

More than a textbook marketplace

Quillo has had the advantage of being well supported all the way. They are also partnering with the South African Education and Environment Project (SAEP), a non-profit organisation that deals with student development from early childhood development (ECD) to tertiary level.

Shklaz said that “a lot of these organisations can’t verify that the money they are giving their students is going towards textbooks, and that it is happening safely, so they are very keen to use our platform.”

The non-profit sector appeals to him too: “In general, I would love to be able to start creating an environment where people are donating textbooks, and we are able to supply textbooks to students who can’t afford them.”

“I would love to be able to start creating an environment where people are donating textbooks, and we are able to supply textbooks to students who can’t afford them.”

The long-term aim of Quillo is to make information for students more accessible.

“We want to become more than a textbook marketplace. We think textbooks are a huge problem, but there are a plethora of other problems that students deal with, whether that be grappling with content, social issues, or finding out about a course they want to take.

“We want to use Quillo as our entry point into the market, to become a trusted brand for students, by students, and then start expanding to become a holistic platform that provides value and support for university students in South Africa, and across the world,” he said.

 

Source University of Cape Town

News desk

News desk writes, collates and publishes relevant news for Yiba.