Deals

Ingk Labs rescues technology behind SwapThing to build the next eBay (exclusive)

dumpster

Proving that one man’s trash is another’s treasure, New York-based incubator Ingk Labs has salvaged an e-commerce patent gem from a defunct startup. It hopes to use that second-hand technology to corner the online-bartering market and take on eBay and Amazon.

Ingk Labs rescues undervalued intellectual property (IP) from dying startups, and then brings its IP buys back to life as new companies. Today, it has resurrected the technology behind SwapThing, a now obsolete site for multi-user online exchanges.

The accelerator has acquired SwapThing’s IP for an undisclosed sum and will fold it into Barterpop, an Ingk Labs company slated for early 2012 launch. Barterpop will allow consumers and businesses to exchange goods and services in multi-party trades.

The motivation, Ingk Labs CEO Craig Alberino told VentureBeat in an exclusive interview, was to acquire a seminal patent in the barter space and protect Barterpop, a SwapThing competitor that Alberino hopes will grow to compete with the likes of Amazon and eBay.

The patent in question, Alberino explained, covers the process of multilateral online exchanges, and has already weathered numerous IP challenges.

What does that mean, exactly? Say that you want a laptop and you have two items to barter with, and Dylan is willing to trade his laptop but doesn’t want your items. Barterpop, using the acquired IP, will play matchmaker and link you, Dylan and Heather, another barterer with items to satisfy you both, to create the perfect three-way swap. The experience will also enable retailers to insert themselves in between two consumers to complete a three-way trade.

The market opportunity for a barter site is on the rise, Alberino argued, even though he admitted that people before him, dating back to the early 2000s, have tried and failed to create a home-run swap site. “Barter is up in a down economy that has left many short on cash but rich in talent and treasures,” he said.

Ingk Labs has lined up investors to support the Barterpop venture and believes it now owns the technology and the IP to dominate the field. The logic goes that if Amazon or eBay were to enter the swapping market, and Alberino is confident they will, the companies would be forced to license Barterpop’s technology.

In addition to Barterpop, Ingk Labs will launch 11 more new companies in 2012 — three of them already have funding — by applying its dumpster-dive-like approach to IP rescue and acceleration.

Ingk Labs was founded in 2006, though the company has only focused its attentions on IP rescue in the past year. SwapThing founder Jessica Hardwick will join Ingk Labs in an advisory role as part of the IP acquisition deal.

Image via Keoni Cabral/Flickr