This summer, the Haverford Innovation Platform (HIP) hosted its first-ever Innovation Incubator program, an entrepreneurship program which provides funding, mentorship, and resources for student-run social enterprises. One project to come out of this pilot eight-week program is Dibs, an SMS-based stuff-sharing platform. Run by Ahmed Ishtiaque, Ken Ruto, and Vincent Yu, all computer science majors in the class of 2020, Dibs aims to facilitate the exchange or sharing of reusable items across college communities. The group plans to release the app within this academic year.
“Our goal is to make sure that every reusable item on campus gets its maximum utilization before it finds its way into the recycle or the waste pile,” said Ishtiaque.
The Innovation Incubator is not Ishtiaque, Ruto and Yu’s first time working with Dibs for HIP programming. Last February, HIP hosted the annual Tri-Co Hackathon in the newly-opened VCAM building, drawing teams from all consortium schools together to attend coding workshops and work on small projects for a weekend. There, the Dibs team came together to create a first draft of the platform. Initially brainstorming on the topic of sustainability, the team wondered if there was a way to coordinate saving uneaten food at the Dining Center. Noticing the surplus of pizza from that night’s dinner, the team pivoted their project to focus on advertising all free food on campus in what the team describes as a lightbulb moment. By the end of the hackathon, Dibs had won the Most Popular Hack award.
Dibs’s scope grew to include other items as well as Ishtiaque, Ruto, and Yu continued with the project into the summer with the Innovation Incubator. For the first six weeks of the program, the team worked on building the Dibs application with VCAM Innovations Program Manager Shayna Nickel serving as a project manager to guide with planning the application’s development. Once a minimal prototype had been created, Ishtiaque, Ruto, and Yu tested their product with Haverford students and incorporated feedback to tailor Dibs to the Haverford community.
The current version of the application allows users to create an account, log in, and “call dibs” on any listing they want. All users are also able to post their own items to share. In addition to the posting and claiming functionalities, the application also includes a messaging feature so that students can coordinate the exchanges.
“We expect to keep adding features and refining our app and continue to get feedback from testers throughout the school year,” Ishtiaque noted.
The other student project supported by the Innovation Incubator this summer was Beyond the Bell, which developed walking tours in Philadelphia.