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Aaron, you came here from Cedars Christian College (high school) in Australia, why did you choose Rutgers-Camden School of Business?
It’s an interesting story. When I finished high school, I was playing soccer in Australia and going to university at University of Wollongong’s Sydney Business School. I wanted to play college soccer so I transferred to a college in Delaware for 2 years. I wanted to continue playing soccer, but also go to a globally renowned university that would offer me the opportunity to grow and challenge myself. Rutgers stood out to me, and the soccer coach here expressed a very strong desire to have me as a player too.
What originally made you want to get into a Finance major?
I was always into the financial markets with an interest in stocks, fixed income and derivatives. I also think that finance has some of the most creative people in the world in it. I always saw that creative side of finance and was fascinated by it. When I saw that Rutgers School of Business had the largest Bloomberg lab in the state, I was sold.
Tell us about what you’re currently working on outside of the classroom.
I have been working closely with two of my best friends, Artur Zvinchuk and Chahin Aghrim ,who were actually my teammates and roommates when I was in Delaware. We have created an app that allows students to buy and sell textbooks amongst themselves on college campuses. It is beautifully designed and simple to use. SmartStudents is finally live on both the App Store and Google Play with over 800 users.
It sounds like SmartStudents has had a great start. What are your next steps? Where do you see it going over the next few years?
We believe in sharing. We believe in using technology to bring people together. Our goal is to connect all 24 million college students across the country so that, together, we can achieve our full potential. We are more than providing a book to a student who could never afford one. We are a community. By the end of this school year we see SmartStudents having over 50,000 users and within the next 2-3 years we will be the number one platform for textbooks and college students in the US. It’s only logical that our next goal is to grow at the universities around the Philadelphia region.
Has there been a specific class here that has helped prepare you for starting your own business?
To be honest, Mike, even before I came to Rutgers, I always had the vision of creating my own business. Artur, Chahin and myself all shared that dream and spoke about it a lot when we were in Delaware. But to answer your question, it wasn’t a particular class that helped me to prepare for this amazing challenge. It was the energetic and inspiring environment here we have from everyone on Rutgers–Camden campus. It goes all the way from the freshmen, to the professors, dining hall staff, and even the Chancellor. Of course Rutgers has many great academic classes that have helped, but it has been the people that have made the biggest impact.
What do you recommend to other School of Business students that are looking to create a start-up?
They should intern with us! Jokes aside, Mike, I would say that ideas are close to nothing, it’s all about execution. There are countless people out there who are probably so annoyed at themselves because they had the ideas for Airbnb, the ideas for Uber. All three of us would say that if you want something that badly, you will find a way to make it happen. You can find the smartest people in the world for astonishingly cheap prices if you look hard enough. Anyone can hire six interns, like we did. Anyone can track down an investor for venture capital, like we did. If you have the “why” you will find the “how”, just like we did.
Where can students find more information about SmartStudents?
The first step is to download the app on the App Store or Google Play. We have a website and Instagram page as well. We are open to any feedback, whenever anybody wants to get in touch with us. Feel free to contact us, we are students just like you.