When Bo Fishback, Ian Hunter, and Eric Koester developed Zaarly right before SXSW took place earlier this year, they had no idea that it would get the response it has gotten thus far. Koester told WebProNews that they created it two and a half weeks before the show and decided to launch simply as an experiment. However, when it took in $10,000 worth of transactions within 48 hours in a two-block radius, they knew they were onto something.
Koester describes Zaarly as a "mobile marketplace for anything." In other words, it provides a way to buy or sell locally. Koester said that it is focused on buyers at this point, since it would be cumbersome to search through all that people have to sell on a mobile device. Instead, the app essentially allows users to say, "I would pay X amount for _________."
"In our world, we try to let the buyer start the conversation saying what they want, and then sellers come to the marketplace trying to connect right directly with them," said Koester.
He went on to say that Zaarly divides its marketplace into three categories: goods, services, and experiences. He also told us that he believes that, just as consumers transitioned from offline marketplaces to online venues, they would make a similar shift to mobile platforms.
"Mobile commerce is really transitioning this world of buying and selling in a real-time basis," said Koester.
According to him, consumers no longer want to sit at their desktops and search for items. Now, he believes people want to find what they're looking for wherever they are, which will drive them back to local commerce.
Apparently, he's right because the service took in over $8 million in transactions over its first five months of existence. The company has also received funding from Ashton Kutcher, added former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to its board, and been referred to as "the next eBay." Furthermore, it recently brought in $14 million in additional funding.
Koester calls the company's success "so fortunate" but said that the timing of the app was critical. As he explained, without the advanced technology that exists in smartphones, mobile payments, and social channels such as Facebook and Twitter, it would not have been as successful.
Going forward, Koester told us that users could expect a tighter integration between buyers and sellers as well as more tools for small businesses to utilize. He also said that privacy was very important to the company and that it would continue its efforts in this area.
Is mobile commerce the way of the future? If so, what does it mean for sites like eBay and Craigslist? Let us know your thoughts.