Vivek Doraiswamy and Riham Satti are students from Oxford University and the Co-Founders of Swapplr, a swapping and trading site for students using the latest Microsoft technology to help the student community and marketplace.

“Take the TV! I don’t need it”. There it was. Eureka, a gap in the market. Vivek’s friend was just about to graduate from the University of Oxford and he couldn’t take his TV with him. Not a big deal, right? For us it was the start of Swapplr. It was a flat screen TV costing over £200 and he was selling it for £50!! Was it broken? No. Did it have a missing piece? No. Was it in perfect condition? Yes. Till this day forward we thank that flat screen TV. Literally. Every year each student spends £1500 on living expenses (excluding food and rent) and when they graduate from University they no longer need these things - but at the same time new incoming students require those exact same goods. That’s the theory behind Swapplr. When we started we thought. ‘why don’t we let people swap goods?’ But it quickly grew to a swapping and trading site for students.

We got a basic prototype (that was badly designed as we were newbies) and approached Isis Innovation, the Technology Transfer Company of the University of Oxford, to join the Isis Software Incubator accelerator programme. Oxford’s software Incubator supports software ventures in the development of products or services and assists them to trade without external investment. We improved the site and got it launched on October 2012. The excitement in our eyes; like we won lottery… until the site crashed! Yes, it crashed. The reason was using a cheap server and poor programming. We went from winning millions of pounds to losing it. This is where Microsoft came in. We used the entire Microsoft Empire thanks to Microsoft BizSpark from developing to hosting the site. Visual Studio on its own is the “Sorcerer’s stone” for all the developers, the tool is power packet with NuGet Packages for third party applications and on top of that it also has Powershell to do the same. What’s better than having a platform to develop everything from a Windows Azure Website to a Windows Phone app? We branded Swapplr (incorporated under Oxiway Ltd.) and hosted our website using Windows Azure. The site is completely inspired by the Windows 8 user-interface style and is programmed in ASP.Net, JavaScript, JQuery, Ajax and Visual C#. We took advantage of the state of the art ASP.Net web API to provide access to mobile devices in JSON format - and the best part is its integrated with the website to generate search based JSON outputs!

Swapplr only allows students with a legitimate University e-mails to sign up to ensure that we restrict the service only for students (no Hotmail allowed, sorry Microsoft). Validating the University students e-mail’s turned out to be the biggest problem we ever faced. Why? Universities are very strict with their email filtering. Solution? Azure’s integration with third party applications such as ‘SendGrid’ made our lives so much easier as we had an amazing monitoring tool not just for the Windows Azure Services but also for their third party add-ons.

 

The Windows Azure storage plan was so fast and cheap that we even hosted our database in SQL Azure and media files in Windows Azure Storage. Vivek being a developer for Swapplr, it felt like he was given this magical wand in a button form called “Publish” that HOSTED THE ENTIRE PLATFORM in one click (API, Storage, Database & Website). Another problem with most data driven applications is the scaling. With azure we could rest in peace as we started of our development on the ‘free website’ and during our beta testing shifted to ‘shared’, and in the future we can move it to ‘reserved’. It is exactly the same with the SQL Azure Databases, the web
edition is free and again in future we can move it to “business” Mode.

These days notification is one of the key aspects, and even that is made possible with just THREE lines of code using the Windows Azure Service Bus. Now that we got the entire cloud platform operational we focused on the new Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 devices, using the same Visual Studio and Visual C# as the site. It felt like we were already months ahead. Both the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps use live tiles bringing the app to life. The best part it’s not just animated tiles, but tiles with a live feed from the server. Visual Studio is built in with the Simulator for the Windows 8 and Windows Phone. They're loaded with the real operating system and hence testing the development on those are the same as testing it on the devices. Perfect for us coders. Both the Windows 8 and Phone 8 apps use XAML for the front end and C# for the back end. Porting really was as simple as Copy/Paste. The Windows RT, Windows Phone 7.5 and 8 devices support HTTP Client and JSon.Net; heaven for Data driven applications like Swapplr.

Swapplr was accepted to AppCampus and AppCademy in February 2013. AppCampus is an €18 million joint project of Aalto University, Microsoft and Nokia. In addition to this Swapplr was National Finalist at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2013. Imagine Cup is an annual competition sponsored by Microsoft that aims to identify and support promising student start-ups. Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2013 was a memorable experience for Team Swapplr. Imagine Cup, AppCampus and AppCademy are a big success. We’re extremely excited about Swapplr’s progress – it’s available for Oxfordshire University students and is coming to a city near you!