By Refentse Malatji
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 2 of VARSITY News.
Most university students are familiar with the struggle of buying textbooks at the beginning of the year. If you’re lucky, you’re able to buy one off your friend or off a flyer behind a bathroom stall. Majority of the time, we hold our breath, suck it up and pay for that overpriced textbook. However, not all of us are able to bite the bullet because we may not come from a privileged family. I sat down with Tamir Shklaz (a current fourth year UCT student) who has found a way to solve this problem – an app he created called Quillo that is used to buy and sell second hand textbooks.
I believe that anyone who meets Tamir encounters a young man who is confident, easy-going and passionate about the state of education in our country. He was born and raised in Johannesburg and decided to come to UCT for the freedom that came along with living in a new city. Since he could remember, he always loved maths, science and building things. He is a computer nerd through and through. It only makes sense that he chose Electrical and Computer Engineering as his degree. However, his coursework didn’t necessarily give him the tools needed to build his app.
The idea for Quillo arose during his first year lecture in Physics. He was told that he needed to buy a textbook that cost over R1300. He then attempted to buy the textbook off a noticeboard advertisement. Long story short, the tedious process resulted in him finding the textbook only to be told that it had already been sold. This was when he begun to think of a way in which he could solve this textbook dilemma.
“If this was my experience coming from a privileged background where I could afford the R1300 textbook… imagine the experience of a student who doesn’t come from the same background. It’s incredibly overwhelming.”
He wanted to create something similar to a noticeboard but in the form of an app. In his second year, he built the first Quillo app. When asked whether or not university helped him put it together, he stated that it helped in regards to experience, but not really building the app itself. He taught himself Android and iOS software development via online resources like Google, Youtube and Udacity. He brought some of his friends into the business venture and in 2 weeks of releasing the second version of the app, he received thousands of download.
He then thought that creating a website would be a better alternative to the app. When asked whether or not this would be feasible financial wise, he said that a website is cheap to run. “The only real investment you make is your time.” In addition to this, the business is currently funded through winning competitions and bringing in business partners.
So how does one achieve success at such a young age and what makes him different from his peers and the rest of us varsity students? In reply to this, Tamir stated that you have to be willing to be uncomfortable and willing to fail. He had to make sacrifices like his social life, finances and his university career in order to build up his business.
“You have to be crazy to do it.”
Tamir’s dream for the future of Quillo is that it become more than just textbooks. He hopes that he can help create new and innovative ways of learning and change the way we learn at universities. Tamir is an ambitious young person who is willing to go the extra mile, learn and push himself to his limits in order to change the world.