It’s probably easiest to explain how Zaarly works by quoting one of its earliest fans, Demi Moore: “Everything has a price.”
The service hopes to revolutionize commerce by building a mobile marketplace for real-time, local transactions. Say it’s raining out and you’ve got to leave the office for an interview, but you forgot your umbrella at home. Zaarly lets you make an offer to pay for an umbrella delivery.
In a lot of ways this makes it similar to Craigslist, except that it is the buyers who are priming the pump and the sellers who are responding to posts.
The service has had a heady, nine week run to date. Co-founder Bo Fishback was President of the Kaufmann Foundation which he describes as, “Pretty much the best job on earth. I gave away $100 million a year to start-ups.”
A five-time founder himself, Fishback pitched the concept for Zaarly at LA start-up weekend, thinking it would make a fun, 48-hour project. Instead it took off after receiving celebrity endorsements, $1 million in funding and a ton of press at SXSW, where it handled $10,000 worth of transactions in 24 hours.
Now the service is gearing up to launch, probably within the next couple weeks, and New York will be its biggest market. “Wall Street is full of bankers who have a lot of money and a shortage of time,” says Fishback. “For a city full of part-time hustlers, this is going to change everything.”
Success during the tech orgy of SXSW is no guarantee Zaarly will find mainstream traction, but the buzz amongst local VCs is that Zaarly will nab at least eight figures for its next round. For now the focus is identifying communities within the starter cities with a wealth of buyers and sellers to match. Early A/B testing is also helping Zaarly to find its price point, somewhere between 5-10 percent of each transaction.
The kind of transactions that occur on Zaarly is a top concern. The full time team of nine will be supported by hundreds of outsourced staffers who can manually review postings for offending offers. ”This would be an amazing tool if we allowed people to sell sex and drugs, but having learned from Craigslist,” says Fishback. “We are planning to be very aggressive in keeping illicit activity off our platform.”