HubEdu Departs San Diego’s Downtown Incubator After Bay Area Buyout

When San Diego’s downtown EvoNexus incubator held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony five months ago, Jonny Simkin was eager to brief me about SwoopThat, a Web startup he created with two friends in 2010 after graduating from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA. He founded the website to offer textbooks substantially below the prices listed in campus bookstores, using a metasearch engine to aggregate online sources.

We finally met last week for coffee, but it was to talk more about the end of his startup than the beginning. Simkin was moving out of EvoNexus, and in the process of moving to Northern California after selling HubEdu, a new company he started to expand beyond SwoopThat’s narrow focus on textbooks to create a Web platform for all kinds of college retailing.

If there was one point that Simkin wanted to make clear, it’s that he’s scrapped SwoopThat and changed his views.

“As students we thought the college bookstore was the problem,” he says. “But we discovered they weren’t really the problem at all.” In the time they had spent disintermediating the campus bookstore, Simkin says they learned that most are operating on a profit margin of 3.7 percent or less. That’s thinner than a math major’s term paper for Intro to English Lit.

“The problem was that they don’t have the technology they need,” Simkin says. He saw that college and university bookstores needed to act more like e-commerce companies in online sourcing, comparison pricing, managing buybacks, and understanding purchasing behavior. “We wanted to combine the knowledge we gained … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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