Fortune magazine shines on student website pioneers

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Author: Ed Cohen

Four Notre Dame alumni, including founders of the popular campus websites NDToday.com and NDbay.com, reached the finals of Fortune magazine’s national collegiate business plan competition with their idea for an online store that provides same day delivery.

(UPDATE: The team finished in the top five and won an honorable mention in the Fortune magazine competition. )

Judging of the alumni group’s proposal, called LicketyShip.com, and the four other finalists in the Fortune Student Showdown was scheduled for September 17. Prizes in the contest were $50,000 (and the magazine’s cover) for first place, $10,000 for second and $5,000 for third. With LicketyShip, businesses and individuals can shop online for merchandise, the same as at such sites as OfficeMax.com or Amazon.com. The difference is, instead of filling an order from a warehouse and shipping it out via the U.S. mail or a national delivery service like UPS, LicketyShip has local couriers pick up the item from a store and drive it over to the purchasers’ office or home. The site promises to complete deliveries within four hours. The charge for this ultimate express delivery is expected to run about $30 for items weighing up to 50 pounds, according to LicketyShip’s plan. That sounds steep, and it is for overnight delivery of many goods. But the founders say online sites such as BestBuy.com charge $45 or more for overnight delivery of merchandise like laptop computers and printers. And that’s overnight, not the same day. They also point out that some businesses would rather pay $30 to get an item delivered than lose an employee for the time it takes to run to the store and back. LicketyShip plans to focus on what its research has shown are the categories of items people are most likely to shop for online and most willing to pay extra to have shipped overnight. These are books, computers/electronics and office supplies. As of September, the service was being tested in the South Bend area (with a lower $22.99 delivery charge). The company had plans to launch next in Chicago and then in the San Francisco Bay area, according to Robert Pazornik ’02, chief executive officer and software architect. LicketyShip was founded by Pazornik, a co-founder of NDToday.com, the unofficial student website of Notre Dame, launched in fall 1999; Tim Connors ’89, a general partner with the venture capital firm US Venture Partners; and co-directors of software development Chris Kelly ’05 and Aaron Wenger ’05, who launched NDbay.com, an e-Bay-like merchandise auction site for students, in fall 2002. They were both sophomores at the time. Earlier this year LicketyShip won the $18,000 first prize in the McCloskey Notre Dame Business Plan Competition of the business college’s Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. The group finished second ($10,000) in the Jungle Media, Fenwick & West Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition.

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