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SCU Alums Help Ease Back-to-School Expenditures

Philippe Huibonhoa and Chris Williams show their Bronco pride at’s Campbell offices
Back-to-School doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank when it comes to procuring college textbooks, thanks to some innovative Santa Clara alums. In 2006, Colin Barceloux ’03 founded, the first online book rental service, and took it from a two-person startup team to a highly successful Internet-based business, serving more than 3,000 campuses and saving students up to 75% off the retail price of textbooks. “When we developed,” he said, “we dedicated ourselves to a company that makes education more affordable for students. We utilize state-of-the-art technology and superior customer service to provide students with a better value and a hassle-free process.”

To bring that state-of-the-art technology to his business, Barceloux called on two fellow Broncos, Chris Williams and Philippe Huibonhoa—both of whom participated in the five-year joint degree program earning their bachelor’s degrees in computer science and master’s degrees in computer engineering in 2006.

“When we joined the company,” said Williams, “we really had to start from scratch to build the platform.” Huibonhoa added, “We looked at the underlying code from the prototype and said, let’s take what we learned and start over. So, we did. We jumped in head-first.” For a year they worked without pay out of Williams’ apartment. The pair, who had gained valuable experience at SCU working together on projects as undergraduates and again on their master’s thesis, used open-source free technology in building their system. “The money had to go to inventory—this is a capital-intensive business,” they said. But things are paying off as the two now share an office in the firm’s Campbell, California, headquarters. “While I was at Santa Clara, I had an internship at a large defense company,” Williams said. “There were lots of processes and red tape. At a start-up it’s the complete opposite. It’s stressful, there’s more responsibility, fewer resources, but there’s also passion, control, and the power to make decisions.”

They were both drawn to the idea of helping students (and parents) save money. Huibonhoa remembers standing in line to sell his textbooks back at the end of the term: “One time, the person in front of me got forty dollars while I only got five dollars for the same book, because the quota had been met. Renting books is such a great idea, and to see the company grow and more people using our service is very exciting.” Williams agrees, “We built this from the ground up and it has just taken off. The best part of being an engineer is seeing people use what you have created.”

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