Three UCSB students created the free website as a medium for university students to barter various goods, lessons and ideas.

Fourth-year anthropology major Christian DeHoyos, third-year computer science major Justin Kasad and third-year global studies major Jason Vianna developed the start-up as a student-friendly alternative to similar sites. The website posts tradable goods and ideas for users to “swap” in categories such as rentals, tutoring and expanding social networks.

DeHoyos said the site facilitates transactions tailored toward college students’ interests.

“It’s free, it’s secure and it’s the only site where students have rented out a surfboard in exchange for a six-pack of beer,” DeHoyos said in an e-mail.

Second-year English and film studies major Parker Lanting said the website’s features will become more viable once it gains more members.

“I would use it, but because it’s a new site my guess is that many other people aren’t using it [yet] so you would not get any kind of responses that, say, a Craigslist ad would get,” Lanting said. “I think it’s a cool and original idea, though.”

The founders became the youngest and smallest team to win the San Francisco “Startup Weekend” computer programming competition in May 2010. Textbook rental company Chegg recruited the group during the contest to help launch Swaapr on a national level.

The members will take a year off from college to work on the website, according to DeHoyos. The group is living together in a five-person house — dubbed the “Brogramming House” — in San Jose.

DeHoyos said Swaapr also provides students with an alternative source of income.

“It is so hard for students to make money in college without doing something shady or having it drastically take away from one’s studies,” DeHoyos said. “We wanted to solve that problem because every student has something that could enrich our community; there just has to be incentives. We think that every student has the potential to be someone else’s influential teacher.”

Second-year biology major Paige Porter said similar web pages could limit Swaapr’s usefulness.

“I probably wouldn’t use it, but it seems like a good idea maybe in theory,” Porter said. “I’m not sure if it would work out as well in real life, in terms of negotiations and what everything is truly worth in trading.”

The group employs professional computer programmers to verify accounts twice a day and monitor suspicious activity, ensuring customers’ information is safe and secure.

The website utilizes word-of-mouth advertising rather than formal marketing to expand its consumer base. DeHoyos said the staff mainly relies on the campus community as its primary promoters.

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