KINGSTON, R.I. – February 13, 2017 — Anthony Markey of Providence got a big boost after taking third place at the Rhode Island Business Plan Elevator Pitch Contest in late November. There he pitched his online college textbook re-selling business – Libby. But that success was just the beginning.
After launching the business itself on Dec. 10, the company was invited to apply for another big entrepreneurial challenge — the inaugural MassChallenge Bridge to Rhode Island Bootcamp. The pitch for Libby was one of 12 finalists selected from a field of 42 applications that were judged by a panel of 11 experienced entrepreneurs, executives, and investors.
“Being selected as part of the MassChallenge RI Bootcamp is very exciting,” said Markey. “They are so well known in the start-up industry for their talents in teaching and guiding the development of businesses in many different areas. Being involved with MassChallenge is a tremendous opportunity and we look forward to working with them.”
Markey, a URI senior accounting major, said his online textbook marketplace is fully developed and his team launched the beta phase of the business at URI and Johnson and Wales University Providence. The secure online platform, www.uselibby.com, facilitates student-to-student textbook transactions and also helps students find the best prices on textbooks from popular textbooks sellers such as AbeBooks, ValoreBooks, and Chegg.
The Libby team includes Markey and Laionel Cintron, a recent Stetson University graduate. The idea to create such a platform came to Markey after he returned from a semester abroad and needed to make some quick cash. When he attempted to sell his slightly used textbooks to online retailers, he received very low offers and that’s when he decided to create Libby.
“We started Libby because we felt college students don’t receive a fair resale value for their textbooks through the traditional options like the bookstore and online retailers. These options buy back textbooks at low prices and sell them at much higher prices, profiting at the expense of students. Our goal is to encourage the fair resale value of used textbooks,”
When asked if he expects Libby to become the next Amazon marketplace, Markey explained: “It’s important to distinguish the difference between a company like Amazon and Libby. Libby is solely dedicated to the fair resale of used textbooks. Also, Libby is specific to each college and university and offers a tailored experience for students, such as being able to search for textbooks by specific courses and professors. Unlike most textbook companies that buy low and sell high, Libby puts the power back into the hands of students. It is hard to compare a startup to the likes of Amazon, but I am certain that Libby will disrupt the way college students buy and sell textbooks.”
Markey said now his plans are to roll out the service at colleges and universities nationwide. “We want to break down some of the financial barriers within higher education that are caused by the high costs of textbooks that are affecting the progress of students in the classroom.”
Going back to the pitch experience he gained at URI by participating in campus-based opportunities to learn from experts, Markey said: “Students should definitely learn to pitch their creative and bright ideas. It is very important to be able to effectively break down an idea and communicate it to others so that they can understand. That clarity is so critical when it comes to pitching and business success!”
“Being well prepared was the most crucial part of any competition. Only having 90 seconds to pitch an entire business concept is very difficult. I worked with Professor Nancy Forster-Holt to prepare the key points to discuss during my pitch,” Markey said. “I also had participated in the College of Business Administration’s “Guppy Tank” event last year and followed the judges’ feedback to refine my pitch. Practicing in the “Guppy Tank” really prepared me well for competition.”
MassChallenge is a global non-profit startup accelerator and competition with a focus on high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs. Launched in 2010, each year MassChallenge admits finalists to its four-month accelerator program that provides startups with free office space, mentorship and more. At the Rhode Island Bootcamp, Markey will have the opportunity to compete for a spot in the final pitch round of MassChallenge 2017. At the end of the accelerator program, the most promising startups may be awarded with equity-free cash prizes.