Last year, a group of Cornell students started a peer-to-peer storage solution called Ezra Box with a simple mission: provide students, particularly those who traveled long distances to attend Cornell, with a low-cost alternative to storing their belongings with a traditional storage company for the summer. In doing so, they also hoped to offer other Cornell students a source of supplemental income, making the project a win-win.
Last summer, its first in operation, Ezra Box won bigger than even its founders could have predicted. Ezra Box’s web-based platform, which serves as a marketplace connecting students with things to store for the summer with students who have space to store them, shattered transaction forecasts.
“Our estimate was to transact 50 boxes, but we actually ended up transacting 170 boxes,” said Ezra Box co-founder Yash Malhotra (’18). “The average price per box was $15.80, which is less than half of the price of the current incumbents, so Ezra Box helped Cornell students save about $3,200 last summer.”
Beyond that, Ezra Box received strong positive feedback from its users. Last year, the team noted a lot of students storing things for the summer had concerns about the safety of their belongings. While Ezra Box does not take any liability for item storage, Malhotra reported that no items were damaged, and all students using Ezra Box had their belongings safely returned at the end of the summer.
Hosts offering storage space also seemed to rave about Ezra Box. One host used Ezra Box so frequently, he earned more than $1900, enough to finance a trip to Germany.
“We’re very happy with him, and he’s very happy with us,” chuckled co-founder Sagar Karnavat ’17. “In fact, he liked Ezra Box so much, he decided to join our team.”
Still, Ezra Box refuses to rest on its laurels. After receiving feedback that students looking for storage couldn’t transport boxes to the host, the team created a partnership with JoyRun to transport boxes for Ezra Box members starting this summer. Students storing things for the summer can now use JoyRun to transport their belongings to the host, making transactions much easier since neither party needs to worry about hauling boxes across campus.
“Transportation provides a lot of value, and the prices we discussed for transportation with JoyRun are capped at $5, so it’s very reasonable,” Malhotra commented.
The team also hopes to expand the model to new campuses starting next summer, and research has already begun to look for new campuses. While that raises some concerns regarding organizational structure and branding since Ezra Box has been affiliated with Cornell’s International Students Union and was named for Ezra Cornell, the team is proud to highlight its Cornell heritage even as it expands.
“Our advisors told us that we might want to be careful about this considering we might want to expand to other campuses, but we wanted to show some kind of rooting and grounding here,” Karnavat emphasized. “We wanted to show a social venture to help students across the United States could actually start at a university and if the University is okay with it, we’re happy having the name associated with the University.”
“To me, Ezra Box is by Cornell and for Cornell,” Malhotra added. “Our passion comes from working with a bunch of friends and building a product from the ground up. The idea was to help students, and, so far, it has worked.”
To learn more about Ezra Box, visit the website. Additionally, as Ezra Box’s ambitions grow, it is looking for new members to fuel strategy, coding, design, and more. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to find more opportunities.