In 1999, eBay had one of the most vibrant communities of local sellers, who would often hand-write notes for the items they sold and took special care of each other.Fast forward to 2012, and it’s more or less been replaced by Craigslist. The wonder around local selling has essentially evaporated, with eBay now focusing on power sellers.
Enter Yardsale, a new app for selling things locally that ran through the Summer 2011 Y Combinator program. After launching just weeks ago, the app picked up more than 100,000 installs and is going straight after eBay and other peer-to-peer local sales services.
You can download the app here.
We caught up with co-founders Ed McManus and Ryan Mickle to find out what’s happening at Yardsale. Here’s what we found out:
- Within 2 weeks of coming out of beta, the app was installed more than 100,000 times. The app has a four-star rating and was ranked in the top-50 lifestyle apps when it launched in early July, according to AppData.
- Sales usually happen within 10 to 15 minutes. More often than not, the seller is only a few block away. But you can sell to someone within 200 miles, according to the app.
- You can literally sell anything. That can range from a car, to a boat, to a pair of Justin Bieber tickets, which apparently sold for $1,200. That’s going straight for Craigslist’s jugular.
Here’s a lightly-edited transcript of the interview:
BUSINESS INSIDER: Tell me a little bit about yourselves.
Ed McManus: Right after school I joined Scribd, I was there for around two and a half years. We worked on the core technology powering the site. I left about two years ago and started exploring ideas, launched a few side projects.
Ryan Mickle: I’m an early eBay user since back in ’99, left management consulting about 5 or 6 years ago to come back to Silicon Valley. I went to school in Berkeley and was dying to come back. I was doing consulting on product. I was working with a couple Y Combinator companies and a couple clients, and that was around the time I met Ed and came up with Yardsale and wanted to go after it.
“It’s one of those rare opportunities where you’re surrounded by people who make you feel like you’re totally out of your league.”
BI: You guys went through Y Combinator, correct?
RM: We were in the Summer 2011 batch. It was amazing, we really enjoyed it, it’s one of those rare opportunities where you’re surrounded by people who make you feel like you’re totally out of your league. You just wake up and want to push yourself harder. We left Y Combinator last summer and made the choice to put our heads back down and just crank on the product with the desire to make it really, really great. That’s pretty unconventional for Y Combinator, it’s more difficult than jumping right into a launch as quickly as possible. We chose to be under the radar, getting Yardsale to the point that we thought it would work.
BI: How’d you guys settle on the idea?
EM: We were thinking about how back in 1999 on eBay there was this really incredible community. Most people would hand-write notes to each other, there was something vibrant and incredible about that community. It’s likely due to the economics of the web, but in order to scale you had to focus on the power sellers and effectively abandon the community. When we thought of the opportunities on mobile, we wanted to recreate that community and scale buying and selling for those individuals.
BI: How does this differ from eBay?
EM: We set out to create the easiest way to buy and sell things to your neighbours. On Craigslist, the market is riddled with fraud, and eBay has a high barrier for entry. We heard from a lot of eBay sellers that reputation that was becoming a barrier to entry, you’re up against people with ratings of tens of thousands. if you’re the guy on there with a single digit rating no one trusts you.
RM: eBay by design rewards people who are power sellers. We wanted to create Yardsale so it’d be an inviting experience for a first-time user. It adds value to the lives of an individual seller. We knew we could take that process and turn it into a 15 or 30 second listing process. Mobile is the best place to do that.
BI: How big is the network so far?
RM: One of the things that surprised us right away was how many transactions happen and how fast they occur in proximity of the buyer and seller. We’re seeing items get purchased from people who live within a block or two. Items sell within 15 minutes or within an hour. We know there’s a huge opportunity in this niche space that’s local selling, it just hasn’t been cracked yet. Mobile just lets us dive in with finer granularity with items that are literally blocks away from you.
EM: One of the core values at the beginning was to focus on community and to foster that. The bulletin boards were a great place in the early days to discover what works for other sellers and find people with similar interests. eBay got a little bigger and tried to really focus on maximizing the average sale price, and a lot of those individual sellers, they lost the edge they had before. You lost the community you originally had, it kind of evaporated. Now you have a lot of retail sellers, power sellers selling retail goods, it’s lost a lot of the community.
BI: What devices are you on? Any plans to hit Android?
RM: We’re just on iOS right now, we’re really just focused on making that product as effective as possible. Our number one goal is to help people get their items sold. We’re working on the monetization details, there’s plenty of opportunity. We believe that we can build features and an experience that’s absolutely worth paying for. But we’ll never degrade the experience with ads, we know we can add value in the experience of actually buying and selling. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what that looks like.
BI: What kind of traction have you guys seen?
RM: We’ve been really surprised by the response we saw after launching. It was only about 5 weeks ago that we opened up nationwide from the closed beta we started after Y Combinator. Within 2 weeks we broke 100,000 installs, 80,000 of which were new users. We immediately started seeing sales all around the country, which really blew us away. We’ve sold cars, we’ve sold boats, I think one of the most surprising aspects is seeing how little it takes to create a liquid marketplace in a city that isn’t New York or San Francisco. Those are our biggest cities.
BI: What’s the strangest thing you’ve gone on sale on Yardsale?
“The users, they don’t even care about the money they are making, it’s fun and it’s such a light experience in buying and selling these items with their neighbours.”
RM: Well, just today we sold a pair of Justin Bieber tickets for $1,200.
BI: Oh boy. So where do you go from here?
RM: Everything we’ve done so far is a small sign of what’s to come. We’re at the front of the space that we consider casual selling. So, we’re focused on expanding in new cities and improving the product, and really focusing on that community that we know is one of the core reasons that people keep coming back to Yardsale. The users, they don’t even care about the money they are making, it’s fun and it’s such a light experience in buying and selling these items with their neighbours.