Students create consumer-centric digital marketplace


Dissatisfied with current services like Craigslist and eBay, Spencer Carmona decided to take things into his own hands. He wanted a better way to buy and sell items online.

“I found it really stressful and time-consuming to sell products on eBay or Amazon,” said Carmona, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “Craigslist is sketchy because you don’t really know who you’re meeting up with, and I was wondering why buying and selling stuff isn’t consumer-centric.”

Carmona created Bzar, a local consumer-centric marketplace application for the iPhone, with his friends Bryan Lapidus, a University of Michigan student, and Ethan Goldman, a University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign student.

Bzar has a beautiful user interface that’s easy to pick up and understand. The card interface is reminiscent of the popular dating app Tinder — you move through a feed of different items for sale in your area by swiping to the left or right.

When it comes time to buy an item you’re interested in, a long press on an item brings up a pop-up contextual menu with three options: save for later, share to Facebook or message the seller.

That last option creates a private conversation between the user and the seller. The app hooks into Foursquare’s location database and connects that information into the conversation. It displays a rendezvous location on a map, making it easy to decide between a place to meet up and make the swap.

This is made a little simpler, thanks to the app’s integration with Facebook. Users can sign up using a Facebook account or can create an account directly in the app.

Payment is all handled through PayPal, and Bzar doesn’t earn money from any sales made through the app, Carmona said.

“Our current business plan is similar to Twitter or Instagram when they first started out. We have no ads or anything yet, but eventually — if Bzar takes off — we’ll institute something,” Carmona said.

The group believes keeping the app free will keep it user-friendly and non-distracting, he said.

“Designing and developing Bzar was a long process. We had to come up with — and iterate on — designs for every single button and every single color in the app,” Carmona said.

Part of Carmona’s inspiration and experience comes from an internship he had at Color+Information, a creative agency based in New York City where he learned how to think about the consumer when designing a product.

“I got a lot of experience out of the internship — how to conduct myself, how to work in an environment with other people, engineers, designers and so on,” he said.

Despite the fact that he hired third-party developers to build the app, Carmona stressed that he has been interested in app development even prior to interning at Color+Information.

“It’s a really simple but useful app, and I think it’ll be great for everyone from college students to parents to teachers to kids,” Carmona said. “I tried to make the app that I wanted to use.”

Carmona hopes Bzar can expand to other areas one day.

“We hope to expand with not only products, but allowing people to offer services,” he said. “I would like to see Bzar open up as a platform for tutors or something similar someday.”

Bzar may still be small, but in our testing, the app really did feel more personal than larger competitors like Craigslist or eBay.

Bzar is available for iPhones running iOS 7.1 or later and is free to download from the Apple App Store and on Bzar’s website, www.bzarapp.com.


Tyler Gold, Daniel Borowski and Neelesh Tekal

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