vFLYER is a new San Francisco start-up that wants to help distribute your classified ad to every relevant Web site.
It distributes to free-listing places like Google Base, Oodle and Craigslist, and to paid-listing sites as well — depending on your preference.
We aren’t aware of any other site that does this. There are companies serving the automotive industry, sending car ads to multiple sites, for example. And there are lots of sites that help people put listings on eBay, for example, Andale. But vFlyer wants to serve sellers across all industries.
It is the latest company trying to grab a portion of the $3 billion market for online classifieds (according to Forrester Research).
It gives you Web 2.0 tools to create the classified ad, letting you create a car ad with your own preference for title, border and background colors, for example. It then makes it easy for you to send it on to multiple sites.
The guys behind the company, Aaron Sperling and Oliver Muoto, were behind Epicentric, a site that helped companies build portals during the initial Web boom, and which was acquired a in 2002 by Vignette.
The company’s main feature is the “Flyer” (see example), so-named because it is an online version of that old flyer you tacked it up at the local bulletin boards or under windshield wipers. But with this online flyer, you post it just about anywhere on the Web — most significantly, at the main classifieds sites. See more details here.
Aaron and Oliver took us through a demonstration of the product, and we really like it. Why?
This is another Web 2.0 company. But it is refreshingly is different from the other classifieds sites we’ve seen. The question is how quickly users will adopt it.
It will appeal to real estate agents and car dealers who want to move a lot of merchandise and want market them aggressively — which is why vFlyer is focusing on those two areas right now. Would we use it to sell, last-minute Red Hot Chilly Peppers concert tickets? Probably not, because eBay works fine. Even there, though, vFlyer may one day become the better option as a starting point.
It is not competing with classifieds sites. It is forwarding them all traffic, wanting to avoid becoming an actual marketplace destination. (See the chart below for how vFlyer sees the market for classifieds.) Rather, it wants to serve people who want to post ads, and let them do it with as much freedom of expression as possible. With a house ad, you will always have to list the price, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. But vFlyer lets you highlight it with different colors and additional photos and links.
It makes money when people looking at the flyer, say at Craigslist or Oodle, click on the flyer link for more information. This takes them back to the flyer’s URL at the vFlyer site, where vFlyer presents the viewer with advertising relevant to the product being sold. VFlyer charges a fee for helping you advertise at sites with paid listings. So the question is whether a sufficient number of people adopt vFlyer to let it make money.
There are a lot of features. You can send the flyers to others via email or link as a PDF. You can post your ad to many sites without actually going to the site, such as Oodle, via built-in RSS syndication. Some classifieds sites won’t let vFlyer post your ad via RSS. Craigslist, for example, requires that you go to Craigslist’s site and post directly. But vFlyer gives you a bookmarklet that you put on your browser — so that once you visit Craigslist to post your ad, you click on the bookmarklet, and all your flyers appear in the browser. You then select the flyer you want to advertise, click on a single button, and it is pasted into a Craigslist ad listing.
The duo is self-funded, having learned their lesson during the first Internet boom. Epicentric raised $90 million from venture capitalists and other investors, which watered down the ownership share of the founders and employees — it was sold for about $32 million. They’re bootstrapping this time. They plan to raise a seed round on the order of $1 million, most likely by the end of October, they said.
The team built the site on a J2ee architecture. On top of that, they’ve provided customers with tracking capabilities — so that you can track the success of the flyers, seeing how much they’ve been viewed, even according to source.