People and Community Science and Technology

‘If you can give, you can get’

Karim Ismail, a University of Miami senior majoring in industrial engineering, created a mobile application to buy, sell, and trade locally.
Karim Ismail displays the Givet app

Photo: Givet, LLC

In 2015, Karim Ismail wandered the dorm hallways of the University of Miami as a budding freshman full of promise and ideas. At the time, the civil engineering major couldn’t help but observe the plethora of flyers adorning bulletin boards in the five residential colleges and on Facebook from students attempting to sell their used books.

Now four years and a major change later, the senior industrial engineering student has used his knowledge, resources, and business savvy to launch Givet, a buy, sell, and trade mobile application. Ismail studied his target market and understands the importance of reusing and repurposing. His goal—by introducing Givet to the UM community and beyond—is to embrace sustainability.

Reminiscent of popular dating-app user interfaces that many Millennials are familiar with, Givet presents one item at a time on your mobile device. You then have the opportunity to swipe left or right, allowing you to make a decision on the spot if you’d like to buy or trade. One feature that makes the app especially unique is the ability to turn your expendable items into tradable currency. Think of it as an electronic barter system.

“There’s a lot of services out there that can help you buy and sell stuff nearby,” Ismail said. “But what really sets us apart is when you post an item to Givet, not only are you posting it for sale, you are also posting it for trade. So, when you post an item, within 24 hours (you) will start to see a list of things you can get in exchange for that item.”

Leading up to the launch, the New Mexico native thoroughly did the groundwork. This included a visit to the Launch Pad, meeting with investors, acquiring funds, and building a team.

To some, it may seem like an overnight success but Ismail has been hard at work behind the scenes for quite some time. Since spending his teenage years enrolled in a high school in Saudi Arabia before attending boarding school in Switzerland, Ismail has been intrigued by the optimization of complex processes and systems also known as industrial engineering. While in high school, he began learning how to create apps on a smaller scale and the logistics behind it all. Ismail is passionate about reusing and repurposing, and he made it a priority to find others who are like-minded to not only rally behind his ideas but to invest in them as well.

“I really wanted to get this thing out and help the student body out as fast as we could, because I really knew that there was a market for this kind of product, and that it would definitely benefit them,” Ismail said. “So, I spoke to some private investors—local and overseas—who I had some connections with from previous work and they really liked the idea and they wanted to work with us, so they funded and helped execute this dream.”

A Different Type of Student

When Ismail isn’t devoting his time studying at the UM College of Engineering, he is managing a team comprised of 20 employees—mostly his peers who live in other parts of the world. Givet is based in Miami but like many start-ups, does much of its work digitally. Ismail is proud to see the tech scene in Miami rising. His professors have been supportive of his entrepreneurial endeavors.

“He’s very creative in the way that he approaches a problem; it is always surprising to me in a pleasant way,” said Nurcin Celik, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “He seems like he is someone who can think outside the box.”

Ismail is a student in Celik’s computer simulation systems course. She looks forward to Givet starting a new wave for generations to come.

“I think [the app] is something that is much needed for sustainability here in the University,” she said. “It’s also cost effective and I can only imagine if this expands to other schools, high school and university campuses, how much paper and how many trees are going to be saved.”

Outside of engineering, another professor who has played a significant role in Ismail’s college experience is lecturer Ronald Giroux. Ismail took his public speaking course as part of his cognate.

“He truly made me a better public speaker, and he always encouraged us to speak about stuff we were actually interested in,” he said. “I thrived in this environment and took something from his class that will last me a lifetime. What I learned from Professor Giroux’s class I now use regularly, as work with Givet involves a variety of keynote presentations to both potential and current investors, as well as guest speaking opportunities.”

Ismail’s advice to his fellow ’Canes who are interested in creating and innovating a mobile app is to just start.

“It’s important to take that first step, because the first step will lead to the second step and before you know it you’re halfway there,” Ismail said. “It’s important to just do it!”

Ismail is looking forward to him and many of his team members graduating this academic year so that they can begin working full-time on Givet. Although the road to one path is ending, he will begin a new journey soon.

But Ismail is ready and encourages us to remember one thing: “If you can give, you can get. So go ahead, Givet a try!”