ANU students develop high-tech auction site

2 October 2014

Masters students Manish Jain and Sunandita Nijhawan have developed a new social platform that aims to stop scammers from ripping off members of the public who are selling items online.

Snapknock is a new site that connects with people's facebook profiles to ensure that those who are selling products, as well as those buying them, are legitimate, while private details such as contact numbers are kept private.

To sign up and log in each visit, the website asks users to log in using their facebook credentials and phone verification to ensure that all the users are genuine, and scammers don't penetrate the system.

"Mark Zuckerberg said in 2010 that social commerce is going to be the next thing to blow up," says Manish, who is co-founder and CEO of Snapknock.

"Business to consumer social commerce is doing great. But consumer to consumer space in social commerce has not had any innovation, so we are stuck with websites like Gumtree and ebay, which were built in 1995.

"So what Snapknock does is it brings the social power into consumer to consumer commerce. So if you want to sell your stuff, instead of going to Gumtree you come to Snapknock knowing you can see people's profiles and you know who you're selling to. You can be sure that these are not scammers."

During the sign up process, Snapknock asks users for their phone number to verify that they are legitimate.

Manish, who is studying his Masters in Computer Science at ANU, says as most online bargain hunters don't like having items shipped long distances to reach them. The idea is that Snapknock will only put users in touch with other users living in the same city.

At present, around 300 items have been sold to Snapknock users in Canberra, with ANU students the main users of the social auction site.

Snapknock's owners plan to launch the site in Sydney soon ahead of subsequent launches in other Australian cities and overseas, although the platform will only connect users with others in the same locations.

"Mostly we'll see that Canberra people and will buy and sell among Canberra people. But more often than not people travel to other places like Sydney, so they should be able to switch their location to Sydney," Manish says, referring to the fact that users don't like paying for items to be shipped from another city.

Snapknock's development began in July 2014 and within the first month the number of users reached a few thousand. The website officially launched 15 August 2014.

"We have sold some pretty big stuff. People have sold their PS3's because PS4 came out, people are selling their iPhone 5's because iPhone 6 came out. Since the website was launched, more than $12,000 in sales have been processed through Snapknock," he said.

Manish says eventually Snapknock will also be tailored between users and their groups of friends, on facebook.

Manish's partner, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Sunandita Nijhawan, encourages students to start their own businesses, but there is a catch.

"Starting your own business requires determination and hard work," says Sunandita, who is studying her Masters in Information Systems.

"But I would encourage students at ANU to try and reach out to make their entrepreneurial dreams a vision."

Recently, Sunandita and Manish participated in investor demonstrations in Sydney and Canberra where their pitches were judged the best at both events.

"Very soon we will be expanding in Sydney and our investors are helping us with our future growth," Sunandita says.

"Very soon we will also be expanding to global frontiers overseas."

To use Snapknock, head to the sign in page.