Fididel is new kind of auction site that aims to draw in buyers and sellers who aren’t happy with the lack of real-time negotiation on sites such as eBay or Priceline.com. The site gives buyers and sellers the ability to chat in real-time and quickly agree upon a sales price.
The San Jose, Calif.-based company, which VentureBeat uncovered a couple of months ago, appears to fill a hole in the auctions market that those big companies have long left uncovered.
Hal Wendell, CEO and founder of Fididel (pictured left), said he dreamed up the idea out of frustration with sites such as eBay. He was trying to buy an older wooden tennis racquet and kept losing out in final bids. He also didn’t want to get stuck paying a high “buy it now” price, referring to the feature on eBay where you can end an auction immediately by paying a price set by the seller. Rather, he wanted to negotiate his own price.
He started the company in the fall of 2006 but switched to a new development team in China in early 2007. Right now, he has about 13 developers in China and another dozen employees in San Jose. To date, the company has raised $1 million in funds from Quest Venture Partners and will likely seek more funding.
The site goes live today. On it, sellers will list items for sale. The potential buyers can contact the sellers to negotiate a price in a kind of instant-messenger conversation. Wendell said that the buyers and sellers cannot type anything they want into a conversation. That’s because negotiations often deteriorate into name calling. Instead, the buyers and sellers can select from a menu of responses, such as “go higher.” Wendell says buyers can wind up happier because they can sell items more quickly and get a fair price.
Wendell thinks that “overstock companies” in particular, who buy a lot of excess inventory for cheap and sell it by the dozen on eBay, may like this kind of one-to-one negotiating better because they can wind up with fast sales and prices that are more reflective of real demand. Usually, such sellers have to offer “one size fits all” bargain-basement prices just to move a lot of merchandise.
Wendell says that Fididel (named after a Mexican restaurant he knew in San Diego) is also unique because it has “Fididelers” on hand — members of the community who have gone through special training on the site and can handle negotiations for sellers when the sellers can’t be available themselves. The sellers can set parameters for the Fididelers, who close deals with the buyers and then get a commission for the transaction. A Fidideler might get $1 to $2 for a $100 transaction, Wendell estimates. But the real-life sales will set the amounts the Fididelers get paid.
Wendell has signed up at least 50 large sellers of merchandise already. On the first day, more than 200,000 items will be listed for sale. Wendell thinks that younger people who don’t have the patience for eBay auctions to end might prefer the real-time negotiations.
“This is more suitable for the instant-messenger generation,” Wendell said.
Wendell calls his idea “engagement commerce,” which is a lot closer to the way sales take place in the real world. It can be a lot more fun than passively waiting for an auction to end, he said. Initial products include electronics, sporting goods, home and garden supplies and other things.
Wendell said the company has applied for a variety of patents. He says that he doesn’t want to take eBay on directly. Rather, “We want to offer a medium for younger buyers and overstock companies.” Besides sites such as eBay and Priceline.com, competition includes the newly launched WantItGotIt Exchange, or Wigex, which launched its public beta last week. It clearly looks like it’s time for eBay to look over its shoulder for those who want to do eBay 2.0 — before eBay does.