New Web App Recognizes Importance of Streamlining Online Deals


September 17, 2013

Are you looking to save money on back-to-school clothing and electronics? Tired of the long lines at retail outlets?

Try DormDeal. A team of innovative Carnegie Mellon University engineering students has created the perfect app for even the most finicky shopper. "We have developed a novel computer app that lets students successfully tap into the used goods market," said Collin Buchan, DormDeal chief technology officer and a master's degree student in ECE from Austin, Texas.

Buchan and his engineering peers Nolan Carroll and Patrick Hogan of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Jonathan Bender of Chatham, N.J., have been getting their product ready for prime time, which involves a Web app ( and a companion Android app that is free to download from the Google Play store.

The CMU team said they realized that the $20 billion used goods market is underutilized by college students. Their research revealed that safety and the authenticity of online deals made college students less willing to participate in the growing used goods market.

So Buchan's team developed the DormDeal site and launched it at CMU, the University of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania State University. The team also was inspired to develop their novel app after winning the "eBay Best of eCommerce Hack" contest last year.

"It has been a big success as we continue to get increased interest from students seeking to purchase used textbooks and apartment furniture," Buchan said.

Mike Ryan, a ECE senior, said the new app is easy to use and provides the privacy so essential to purchasing anything online. "I've been searching for used textbooks and found some bargains," said Ryan, head of the 2014 "Build 18'' festival run each spring by CMU students to showcase savvy tech prototypes.

DormDeal has muscled its way into a competitive and crowded marketplace, but CMU students vow to make the new entrepreneurial website a major commercial hotspot for students who lack the transportation resources to visit traditional retail stores.

The National Retail Federation estimates that back-to-school sales average more than $600 per student. "We want to push the envelope and open a whole new market for the college sector," Buchan said.

Entrepreneurial DNA runs deep at CMU. In the past 15 years, CMU faculty and students have helped create more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs. The university averages 15 to 20 new startups each year.

Photo Credit: photo taken by Ken Andreyo


Chriss Swaney