I just bought a dog sweater from a stranger who lives across the country from me. And I totally blame Yardsellr, a year-old startup backed by a team of eBay veterans who may well be inventing the future of social commerce.
Yardsellr CEO and founder Danny Leffel just announced his company has raised $5 million from Accel Partners, the venture-capital firm best known for investing in Facebook, and Harrison Metal Capital, the investing vehicle of former eBay executive Michael Dearing, who’s quietly backed AdMob, Aardvark, CafePress and others. Besides Leffel, ex-eBayers on the team include Jed Clevenger, who ran paid search at eBay, and Rachel Makool, former head of eBay’s community team.
While Yardsellr has a website — Yardsellr.com — the shopping experience isn’t built around it. Take my dog sweater, for example: I found it on the Yardsellr Doggie Block, a Facebook page built for canine obsessives like myself. I saw the sweater but had my doubts: Was I one of those dog owners who dresses up their best friends in hideous outfits?
So I posted the sweater to my Facebook wall and asked my friends what they thought. I instantly got two thumbs up (orange is Ramona the Love Terrier’s signature color, after all), clicked to buy it with PayPal, and sent the sweater seller a Facebook message confirming the size.
Some call Yardsellr the “eBay of Facebook,” but I think that’s selling it short. Buying on eBay or Craigslist would have been a far more troublesome experience, from sharing the item with friends to deciding whether I could trust the seller. (In an additional twist, I paid Yardsellr’s fee, rather than the seller, so Yardsellr is making it easy for sellers used to Craigslist’s fee-free for-sale listings to make the switch.)
Yardsellr’s true potential may be redeeming the original idea behind eBay’s now sadly troubled marketplace, which was built around a reputation system that let strangers buy and sell to each other. eBay jealously guarded its reputation system, which meant that it never grew outside ebay.com. The company had a second chance with PayPal, which arguably knew a lot more about buyers and sellers through their bank accounts, credit cards, and purchasing habits on and off eBay — but it never developed PayPal as a reputation system.
Through its links to social networks, Yardsellr could be the fulfillment of the promise of social commerce. What will fuel buying and selling isn’t just cleverly targeted recommendations; it’s a sense of community and trust that transcends meaningless “A+++ WOULD BUY AGAIN” ratings. Because Yardsellr is organizing around communities of interest rather than a single destination site, it should be able to create groups where trust can thrive, backed by the validated reputation of Facebook and Twitter profiles.
And where trust exists, commerce usually follows.
Yardsellr, based in Palo Alto, has to date operated on seed funding from Dearing’s Harrison Metal Capital. The company currently has seven employees.