The first recorded exchanges took place in 6000 B.C., when Mesopotamian tribes exchanged barley, lead and wool instead of money. The trend continues to this day, with the International Reciprocal Trade Association reporting that $12 billion dollars in goods and services are exchanged every year in the U.S. market.
Bartering has evolved with the growth of technology. From sites helping users get rid of goods that inherently lose their novelty over time (kid’s clothing, books, video games), to the infamous Craigslist free and barter sections, technology is helping entrepreneurs redefine consumption by creating new ways to decrease waste and increase efficiency.
Rather than bill itself as a website helping users simply exchange goods, Yerdle promotes itself as an online community of sharing. The website states, “Everything on Yerdle is a gift,” and the founders plan to use the abandoned inventory of America’s closets to become the largest national sharing retailer in the world.
Many trade websites like U-Exchange and Craigslist rely on users coming to a mutual agreement on exactly what they are willing to trade for what. Yerdle Marketing Director Rachel Barge asks, “What is likelihood that at a specific moment in time one person has one thing, one person has another thing, and they both equally want the other thing? That’s a lot of stars that have to align.”
The solution? Yerdle credits. “Sellers” price their listed items in credits, and earn that amount of credits when they “sell” something. With amassed credits, they can purchase other Yerdle items of their choosing. “Buyers” pay for shipping, which ranges from $2 to $4 dollars depending on the item. The system removes variables of time and place from the equation, and according to Barge, “liberates people from the constraints of other swap sites.” Furthermore, the seller’s perception that they are accruing monetary value creates a “landscape of motivation and desire” that inspires them to participate.
How can users be trusted to fairly and consistently price items on Yerdle? Barge says that predictive pricing, as exemplified by Airbnb, will help. Algorithms will eventually aid users in determining how many credits someone will pay for a Breville juicer, for example. (It goes for about 800, it seems.)
Barge also sees the future of Yerdle involving even more customization and fine-tuning. Although the company “leans toward making Yerdle an open place,” increased regulation and lists of prohibited items could be on the horizon.
Still, it’s hard to deny that sometimes the novelty is half the fun. Barge confesses that the Yerdle team sometimes chips in to purchase some of the stranger items up for trade.
“We think it’s funny. The other week, someone in our office won a 3-pound gummy worm the size of a Christmas ham. It was actually really gross. No one wanted to eat it,” she recalled.
Amusement is closely aligned with Yerdle’s mission to build a community that not only inherits and passes things along, but also enjoys the process. Everyone loves getting something for free. Sellers feel validated and happy that old items are not going to waste. Yerdlers, as a whole, become a community, sharing stuff and reducing waste at the same time.
How does it make money?
This all sounds great, but you can’t help but wonder — who is paying for the actual website, this 21st century bartering platform? According to the company, investors who believe in the site’s mission have propelled them thus far, and the company will implement revenue models down the line.
So if you become a website with millions of satisfied — even addicted — users, profit will follow. Doesn’t sound too far-fetched these days, does it?Tags: Business,Entrepreneurship