While eCommerce has exploded over the last decade, digital marketplaces still suffer the same nagging user experience flaws they always have — particularly person-to-person marketplaces. It probably hasn’t been that long since you heard someone mutter “craigslist is creepy,” or lament about digital payments, security issues or about how it takes forever to sell something on eBay.
Many startups have taken the “let’s build a better craigslist” approach and attempt to build a whole new marketplace, mobile or otherwise. But building a marketplace is tough and requires time. There’s the matter of manufacturing and maintaining trust and quality, creating liquidity and building up both sides of the marketplace –i.e. having an equal amount of buyers and sellers — all difficult to do. Just ask Zaarly, and YardSellr.
Rather than creating a new marketplace, Matthew Blackshaw, Tony DeVincenzi and Dávid Lakatos — straight outta MIT Media Lab — decided that the best way to add value in eCommerce is to fix the selling experience. So, the three amigos developed Sold, a startup and iOS app, to do just that. The startup, which officially launches today, aims to create a service layer on top of existing marketplaces rather than create a new one from scratch, while trying to simplify the way we sell online.
What in the sam hill does that mean? Well, ask the co-founders and they’ll tell you that people’s beef with eCommerce often stems from the fact that it’s a time sink. If you want to sell your Macbook Pro, it takes time to price it, find a buyer who’s not a bot, get paid, box it and ship it. The prospect is enough to make busy people say “screw it.”
Sold takes that whole process out of your hands, which may sound terrifying, but they think you may be willing to pay a little more for the convenience. Essentially, Sold removes the friction by pricing whatever it is you want to sell, finding a buyer, completing the transaction and sending you what you need to package and ship — including it under one single price so that you can do as little work as possible — because you’re lazy. Stinkin’ lazy.
Huh? Here’s how it works. The Sold team developed a bunch of algorithms and scrapers to crawl the major eCommerce marketplaces, like craigslist, eBay, Amazon product search and so on to aggregate a big old database of product information — specs, pricing and so on. This means that when you download the app and tell the service you want to sell your Macbook, Sold knows the approximate going rate of a used 15-inch MacBook Pro on the market and which marketplace is selling for the lowest price — or for the most value.
This solves a problem that many experience when selling online. You have an item, you probably know how much you bought it for, but you have no idea what a fair price is for the item in its current state. You want the best price, but you also just want to sell the damn thing. So, Sold pings its product search database and then automatically serves you with a fair market value, which you can then accept or reject. That price includes everything, fees, shipping, packaging and so on. Accept, and game on.
Sold then knows which marketplace had that price, so it then lists your MacBook on eBay for you, for example. All you have to do is enter some basic information and snap four pictures of the object and upload them to the app. It takes care of the rest.
Once it finds a buyer, it handles the transaction. Sellers enter their bank account information and the service puts the money in your account and sends you the receipt once the transaction is completed. If there are any problems along the way, it will send you a push notification. How long it takes Sold to find a buyer depends on the item you’re trying to sell, the founders tell us.
If you’re selling a smartphone, it might list the product on Amazon. But for some items, like if you’re selling an article of clothing, a designer handbag, for example, it will list the product on eBay. Naturally, eBay’s auction process takes longer. In short, selling can take less than two hours or up to a week, depending on the product.
Once your smartphone is sold and paid for, the service sends you the stuff you’ll need to package and ship it. Now you may feel gipped here, because you’re worried that you may actually have to do something — or that the service includes some hidden cost you didn’t know about.
But this is pretty cool: Sold has three sizes of boxes (pictured left), with the largest being 16x16x16, which means that there’s a 97% chance your item is going to fit in one of the sizes. Those boxes come pre-paid, pre-labeled, pre-insured and include tracking and bubble wrap. Using the startup’s iPhone app, you can track the box on the way to your apartment/house, and, once you pack the dern thing, use it to schedule a pickup or drop-off location.
So, yes, Sold does require you to tap a few buttons and tape up a box, but that’s pretty much it. Or at least that’s the idea. Of course, as the naysayers are always quick to point out, Sold isn’t alone in this space. Other services like Glyde and Gazelle aim to solve the same problem. You have options.
What’s more, Sold is going to be a little more expensive than selling online would be otherwise, because its pricing includes the service charge for whatever marketplace it sells your product on, plus its own fee/margin. But the founders tell us that they think Sold will stand out because it goes beyond any other service in terms of simplicity and convenience — and offers a price that’s competitive to the Glydes and Gazelles out there. Though that’s up for you to decide, user.
The value proposition has already attracted the attention of investors, and although Sold isn’t ready to disclose the amount, the startup has raised a round of seed financing from investors that include Google Ventures (Rich Miner), Greylock Partners (Reid Hoffman), Matrix Partners (Antonio Rodriguez), and the team at Boston Seed.
Find Sold on the App Store here or check out the intro video below: