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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Davis alumni start grocery store website

It is common knowledge that college students can afford to save money on groceries. Thanks to two UC Davis graduates, people around the nation now can.

Ajaxo.com, launched in September 2009, is a search engine that allows people to search, compare and discover groceries and consumer retail products on sale at stores around the nation.

Brothers Ka-Fung Koo and Ka-Tye Koo, developers of the site, gained insight while still in college.

“A major source of inspiration came from our experience working our way through college,” said Ka-Fung, who graduated in 2007. “We wanted to lead by example to show people that you can eat right even if you’re on a budget.”

Ka-Tye said that these harsh economic times made them realize how much other people needed help.

“We decided to develop this web site because we witnessed first hand how the economic conditions of the recession were affecting a lot of our friends and families,” said Ka-Tye, a 2009 economics graduate.

Completely free, the web site works exactly like any other search engine. People type in the item they are looking for and the zip code they would like and it will show all the stores in the area carrying the item on sale. Searches can be as broad as “vegetables” or as specific as “steak.”

Ajaxo.com has national coverage with over 100 retail chains, spanning over 43,000 physical locations in more than 8,000 cities.

“Food is a basic need shared by every American from coast to coast,” Ka-Fung said. “We have users from educational institutions and state, local and federal government agencies.”

The idea for a widespread web site stemmed from the San Francisco Food Bank’s $4 Challenge, a challenge to create dinners for $4 per meal for a family of four. The Koo brothers took Ajaxo.com and used it to help with the challenge.

Their next step led to them conducting a two-month study in the Silicon Valley area on the prices of fresh meats and produce. They found out that with their web site, people could save up to 40 percent on their groceries, even factoring in the price of gas.

“When applied to individuals, a typical single student can often times find two weeks’ worth of groceries for full sized lunches and dinners for around $20 per week,” Ka-Fung said. “Sometimes less.”

The brothers hope to achieve two goals from their search engine. They want to educate and inform consumers to help them live a healthier lifestyle and be able to save money while they do it.

“The key thing people should know about Ajaxo.com is that it is an informational resource. We don’t tell people where to go, but rather give them the information to make the best choice suited to their particular needs,” Ka-Tye said.

In addition to groceries, people can also search for other consumer goods such as shampoo, toothpaste and other items. Ajaxo.com also covers other non-grocery stores like Fry’s Electronics, Office Max, Big 5 Sporting Goods and other retailers.

Feedback from users of the web site has been generally positive, Ka-Fung said.

“We’ve gotten tons of feedback,” he said. “[People] love the idea of the simplicity and the speed of finding information – especially the fact that Ajaxo.com gives users information and store locations relevant to their neighborhood, not store located three or four hours away.”

Even students find this web site to be a great resource for their own shopping needs. Lin Li, a second-year electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate, found out about Ajaxo.com from Facebook and has used it ever since.

“I think the best part of this web site is it’s very user-friendly,” she said in an e-mail interview. “For people who want to save money on fresh groceries as in my case, Ajaxo.com is especially useful.”

NICK MARKWITH can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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