Ubokia, the reverse Craigslist where buyers tell sellers what they want, is releasing a new capability called Ubokia Everywhere, which will enable any site on the Internet to create its own unique marketplace of wants.
And the new update seems to be a direct response to sort-of-kind-of competitor Zaarly.
But where Zaarly is focused more on services and activities, like finding a neighbor to set up your Christmas lights, or getting a custom treehouse built just like that one you saw in House & Home, Ubokia is focused on stuff and places: an Android phone with a micro-SIM and at least a 4.5″ screen, or, a vacation rental in La Jolla, on the beach, for August 5-10, 2013.
The story of Ubokia
The site launched in November of 2011, but to little fanfare. Ubokia chief executive Mark Pine, a former VC at Sigma Partners, wanted to build out the service more completely before hitting the marketing gas too hard.
So Ubokia focused on building out key categories: sports, musical instruments, vacation rentals, automotive, housing, and more. You post what you’re looking for; sellers compete for your business.
But Pine wanted to move beyond the website.
Now he has, and today is the first public announcement of Ubokia Everywhere, which allows sites to create an ecommerce channel right on their site, focused on their niche. Golf site? Now you can help your members buy and sell clubs, memberships, tee times. Home-school mothers site? Now your readers can swap lessons and resources.
“There’s two primary advantages,” Pine says. “One, it allows you to create a customized market for that specific site or vertical. And two, you perform everything on that site … you don’t have to leave it.
In other words, Ubokia is bringing the marketplace to the buyer, instead of forcing the buyer to come to the marketplace.
After very softly launching the service, Ubokia has 160 partner sites signed up and running, mostly tiny niche sites like Saving Cents with Sense and Clever Housewife. Partners share in the transaction fee that buyers are charged, but currently Ubokia is taking nothing. Only later, at scale, will Ubokia take a slice of PayPal’s transaction fees — two to three percent — and start to monetize.
Of course, Mohammed can still come to the mountain if he wishes. All items for sale in any individual site’s marketplace are also cross-posted to the main Ubokia store.
And the strategy is working. Ubokia is now adding 1,000 new users daily. The service now has 220,000 members and 400,000 unique visitors a month. Compete.com, which isn’t perfect but is usually close, agrees:
The competitive landscape
It’s only now, as Ubokia starts to stretch its legs, that Pine is opening his mouth.
Zaarly, he says, “is very good at marketing … they’re making a lot of noise. But really, Zaarly Anywhere is just an affiliate marketing program with a slight kink.”
And he’s not impressed with the integrations that Zaarly has announced with companies like TheFancy and Cookstr.
“The examples seem like toys,” Pine says. “I’m on Cookstr … I see a recipe … and then I’m going to get someone to make it for me? I see that as kind of a joke.”
I asked Zaarly about Pine’s comments, and co-founder Eric Koester replied:
“We are obviously very bullish on this person-to-person space and believe there will be a number of exciting companies built in it — we certainly hope to be one of them.
The Zaarly team continues to hear some amazing feedback from our buyers, our sellers and our partners, so we’re continuing to follow their lead and build something they love that helps them buy and sell with each other right in their own neighborhoods.
With any new sector, there is lots of innovation still to come, but thus far it’s great to see more entrepreneurs and companies working to empower person-to-person commerce.”
The bigger question
I guess the bigger question is this: both Ubokia and Zaarly have two massive, entrenched competitors in eBay and Craigslist. Why not focus on them? At least first?
In fact, both Ubokia and Zaarly are getting traction and making partnerships. You might almost argue that a partnership of a buyer-side marketplace of services and a buyer-side marketplace of things would be a marriage made in heaven.
One thing I will add …
The Ubokia model of embedding a store in every site is a real winner. Zaarly, are you up for some shameless stealing of great ideas?