In November of last year, TechCrunch broke the news that Yardsellr, the eBay for Facebook (without the auctions), had raised $5 million in series A funding from Accel Partners. At the time, the investment seemed testament to the growing interest in the value of bringing eCommerce to Facebook in order to expose it to, you guessed it, your social graph.
Since then, Yardsellr has mostly remained under the radar, building out its platform and quietly growing its user base. Today, the startup is making a couple of big announcements, starting with a high-level rebrand. The motivation? Yardsellr Founder and CEO Danny Leffel tells me that his company wants to do for the eMarketplace what social gaming companies have done with studios. So, that means in practice that Leffel and company have started YellowDog Media, which will become the overarching entity, or studio, behind a diverse catalog of transaction-based titles. Yardsellr was the first title, and today the company is announcing their second: Style.ly.
Style.ly, simply put, is a new social marketplace for women’s fashion. As Yardsellr was formed to be a person-to-person marketplace built on Facebook in which users can connect with other people selling everything from vintage guitars to Hello Kitty collectibles, Style.ly is the same — for fashionistas. (You can see here why Yardsellr has drawn comparisons with eBay — not to mention that Leffel worked at eBay for five years and knows the business well.)
With Yardsellr, users can follow products in their news feed, talk to friends, share, and when they’re interested in making a purchase, move over to Yardsellr.com to use the site’s secure transaction mechanism to complete the sale.
Since launching, Yardsellr built out over 4,000 of what it calls “blocks” — or niche communities based on particular interests — in which users can follow, browse, and connect with like-minded people based on their love of vintage guitars, or whatever the case may be. All they have to do to join one of these blocks is “like” it on Facebook. Compare this to traditional eCommerce, which focuses their verticals based on product categories. The former is inherently more communal, social, and geared towards real engagement with actual people.
Style.ly was born out of both those “blocks”, and obviously the growing demand for eCommerce platforms that target women’s fashion in particular. Thus, with Yardsellr as the template, Style.ly will become a social platform (based on Facebook) for those who want to buy and sell new, lightly-used and vintage items, from designer labels to boutique finds. Voice is what matters in social commerce, Leffel said, and he’s betting that the Yardsellr model — the one that’s a bit eBay and a bit Etsy — will work well for Style.ly’s target audience, and other niche audiences going forward.
And so far, it seems to be working. In a soft launch of Style.ly, Leffel and team found that more merchandise was sold in the first week on Style.ly than Yardsellr sold in its first four months. As for Yardsellr, since November, the platform has grown steadily at a rate of 35 percent per month in terms of gross merchandise sales (in both the quantity and value of products changing hands).
According to Leffel, on any given day, there are more than 120,000 items for sale through Yardsellr, with 6,000 new items listed for sale each day. What’s more, Yardsellr has grown into a community of over 5 million people, 175K of which are monthly active users. If both titles can sustain that kind of continued growth, it takes the pressure off going big with its series B.
Going on from here, naturally, the company plans to add further “studios” for particular interest groups, so that eventually Yardsellr will become the general store-type marketplace for those random odds and ends that will be complemented by Style.ly as well as that future drove of secondary targeted communities (or titles).
But why social? Leffel told me that what used to be so special about eBay was that it’s eFlea marketplace lent itself well to the formation of communities that aggregated tightly around particular interests. Those small communities incubated fierce friendships and bonds among those buyers and sellers that loved, say, first edition novels.
Leffel told me that the eBay team used to joke that there were marriages that happened because of those communities. Of course, eBay has gone on to focus more on commoditized goods, to compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart, but the goal for YellowDog’s properties is to capture the feel of the old eBay — and find that mix between the loneliness of traditional eCommerce transactions and the scalably social aspects of Facebook.
When the social graph meets the interest graph, Leffel said, commerce is a natural byproduct. It certainly seems that the industry is reevaluating its stance on social commerce, and its long term viability, and if this model proves workable in the long run, Yardsellr, Style.ly, and YellowDog seem poised to be close to the front of the pack.