With Pressures from Administration, InstaNomz Closes Doors

UPDATED: April 17, 2013, at 7:45 p.m.

InstaNomz, a student-run food delivery service that launched at the beginning of March, has ceased operations indefinitely due to what it called an irresolvable conflict with the Harvard administration, the enterprise announced on its Facebook page Tuesday.

The founders of the start-up, which delivered food from several popular restaurants in Harvard Square to the rooms of first-year students living in Elm and Ivy Yard dormitories, said that they were told that their service violated the school’s policies for student business activity on campus.

“The Office of Student Life informed us that we either had to operate as an outside vendor, which we understood as stopping outside of the dorm or House, or through Harvard Student Agencies,” wrote Akshar Bonu ’17 and Fanele S. Mashwama ’17, who developed the business out of a final project for the introductory computer science course CS50, in an emailed statement.

The Office of Student Life declined to comment on the record with regard to the admonition.

Bonu and Mashwama said, however, that they were unable to come to mutually agreeable terms with Harvard Student Agencies, a student-run not-for-profit organization that provides a range of services to the Harvard community.

HSA President Ryley R. Reynolds ’15 declined to provide details of the negotiations.

The two founders voiced concern that refraining to enter a dormitory to deliver a meal as an outside vendor would incur greater time costs to their business—as a result, they decided to stop deliveries.

Although “Harvard permits undergraduates to undertake modest levels of business activities on campus,” according to the Harvard College Handbook for Students, the school’s policy reserves Harvard the right “to restrict or control student business use of its resources, facilities, academic product, copyrighted materials, and institutional data.”

While Bonu and Mashwama said that they were not explicitly told which policy they had violated, the Handbook cites “excessive foot traffic or movement of goods into or out of University Buildings” as an action that could warrant the prohibition of a student business by the College.

In 2004, neverthless, a now-defunct enterprise similar to InstaNomz called Crimsonfood.com gained authorization from the dean of the College’s office to deliver food directly to the dorm rooms of students living in the Radcliffe Quadrangle.

While they will no longer deliver to Harvard students, Bonu and Mashwama said they are looking to expand InstaNomz to serve other local academic institutions.

“Moving forward,” they said, “we are looking to launch InstaNomz in other Boston and Cambridge universities, but still hold onto the hope that we can launch it where we want to see it most.”

—Staff writer Alexander H. Patel can be reached at alex.patel@thecrimson.com. Follow him on twitter @alexhpatel.

This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:

CLARIFICATION: April 17, 2014

An earlier version of this article stated that InstaNomz delivered to freshman dormitories in the Elm Yard. To clarify, the student-run business delivered to the Ivy Yard as well.

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