Listia Is An Awesome Way To Give And Get Free Stuff

New Y Combinator funded startup Listia launched this morning, and I already love it. It’s a really smart way to give stuff away for free.

We tend to give away a lot of the random stuff people send us at TechCrunch. Some of it is trivial – stickers, tshirts, etc. But sometimes it’s decent electronic stuff – we get a lot of iPod touches with demo apps to review, for example, and usually the company doesn’t want them back so we give them away to people. Earlier this week I gave away a wireless Google-branded mouse on Twitter, and pondered setting up a Twitter account just to give away all the test stuff cluttering our office.

Often people list free things on Craigslist or donate it to Goodwill, charities or churches.

But Craigslist isn’t a perfect solution, since you will get a mass of emails and need to deal with everyone. And often the winner doesn’t show up. And most charities and churches aren’t really interested in getting actual stuff that they then need to sell for cash. They’d rather just get the cash.

Listia makes it all a lot better. Users don’t bid cash for items, rather they bid points that they get for free for signing up, listing items and referring friends. That means the winner is the person who wanted the item the most and was willing to bid the most points. The lister doesn’t have to deal with a lot of emails, and the no-show risk is minimized.

And if a user really wants an item but doesn’t have enough points, they can buy more. That’s where the business model comes in, and the value to charities.

Points can be purchased at a rate of $5 for 50 points. And if a lister decides to donate the proceeds to charity, the charity gets 60% of any paid for points used by the winner.

If it sounds complicated, just see this listing that I created this morning giving away a Nokia N95 phone and donating the proceeds to the American Red Cross (yes, you can get that phone for free if you hurry).

The service is fully working now but a lot of features are still baking. The selection of charities is very limited (more being added soon, the company says). And soon Listia will let you add other charities, give accumulated points to charity, etc. It’s a no brainer for charities to encourage their supporters to use something like this to donate actual items, and Listia says they are busy creating features to accommodate that.

The company was founded by Gee Chuang and James Fong