Does Facebook Marketplace want to be like Swapit?

Facebook just introduced Marketplace. They describe it as:

[…] today we’re introducing Marketplace, a convenient destination to discover, buy and sell items with people in your community.

facebook-group-settingFacebook has had Facebook groups for many years. People liked to meet up there, post their stuff for sale, arrange meetups and so on. We at Swapit have been using it and the experience was horrible to finally get to the point to buy what you really wanted. Facebook must have realized that a while ago and did start to introduce “buy and sell” features into Facebook groups. When operating a Facebook group, you could then choose the type of that group and as you can see in the screen shot, facebook-sell-postthe “Buy and Sell” type adds certain functionality to that group. In particular, this adds extra fields for people to enter, like “price”, “title” and “location” (e.g. city). It looks like on the screen shot on the right.

Yet, these were all Facebook groups, which you had to manually navigate to, or you would get to their listings if you’re a member of a group and other members of the same group post items — because it would show up in your Facebook feed.

In Facebook’s recent announcement they specifically mentioned this one improvement that will change the way people on Facebook will interact:

To visit Marketplace, just tap on the shop icon at the bottom of the Facebook app and start exploring.

So Facebook added a little icon at the bottom tab par of the app, so you can easily access such “marketplaces”. Of course, there are other improvements like categorization for example. Yet, it is nothing overly dramatic at this stage. Furthermore, they’re only launching in four countries at the moment (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand). More will launch soon, I am sure.

Why did Facebook introduce Marketplace?

According to Facebook the launched Marketplace because they realized that:

More than 450 million people visit buy and sell groups each month[…]

My personal belief is, they’ve also realized the spam that was associated to those 450m people buying and sell. Let me explain.

All the traffic in those buy and sell groups, all the posts and comments, started to pile up and clog up each user’s Facebook feed. Personally, I am doing a lot of research in terms of trading on Facebook and for that purpose I am a member of 100 groups on Facebook – most of which are buy and sell groups. The sheer number of posts that are flowing through my Facebook feed daily is just way too much, and the vast majority of those are buy and sell posts. Almost all of those buy and sell posts are not relevant to me, nor are they anywhere near any location, and therefore, I personally consider them actually spam. To improve that experience and only present relevant sale posts to potential buyers, we have created the Swapit mobile app.

Facebook has been great over the years, to realize the pain points of their users and improve their product to remove friction. So I believe, by introducing “Marketplace”, Facebook wants to carve those massive amounts of buy and sell posts out of people’s ordinary Facebook feed and bundle them in a dedicated place just for trading.

As a Facebook user, I think this is a great step for Facebook to clean up my feed and make sure I only see relevant information from my friends and family, which is what I use Facebook for mainly.

What does Facebook’s Marketplace mean for the industry?

While all of that sounds very much like direct competition to Swapit, it is much more a direct competition to other players in the market. I particularly like TechInAsia’s take on this: Facebook’s Local Market could be Carousell and Tokopedia’s worst nightmare

And that might in fact become true.

Carousell, Tokopedia, Rakuten, Shopee, letgo, Shpock, OfferUp, you name it; are all traditional marketplaces operating on a traditional classified model. Their way of connecting buyers and sells with each other is rather passive and driven by buyer initiative and mostly actually by luck. Let me give you a quick example: As a buyer, you go onto Carousell and search for “Green Sofa”, but you don’t find one. Yet, you really want a green sofa! (who doesn’t want a green sofa?) So what do you need to do? You have to come back and search for it again — hoping that time you will find one. The Facebook Marketplace is not different. It’s basically, the Craigslist model brought into the mobile world with a beautiful layout and pretty pictures. For Facebook, though, it comes with very strong social connections as well.

So yes. Facebook Marketplace may be the biggest threat to our competition as there does not seem to be any key differentiator between them and Facebook Marketplace — except for the fact that Facebook has by far the largest active user base — in the world.

swapit_screenshots_1-13-2-3_4_map-distribution

Central Hong Kong

How is Swapit different?

In one word: hyperlocal. From the onset, Swapit has been built with the mindset to efficiently connect buyers and sellers, who are nearby each other in real-time. Every single item posted on Swapit has a highly precise location attached to it, which can be mapped precisely on a map.

Based on that small yet important piece of information, our Swapit trading platform looks for potential buyers who are nearby the seller’s location and are interested in the item you are selling. See Swapit Alerts for more on that.

As opposed to our competition (including Facebook Marketplace now), Swapit does 3 essential things better:

  1. Timely Sensitive
    Swapit reaches out to buyers in real-time, right when an item becomes available. It’s snappy, it’s quick, it happens when it needs to happen; right now. That’s exactly what our on-demand society wants today.
  2. Location Specific
    Swapit connects only people who are nearby each other. I am not talking about “same city” like Facebook mentions. I am talking about “within 500 meters” (approx. 5 minute foot walk). It’s truly nearby and the item can be reached right now.
  3. Contextually Relevant
    By only presenting items the buyer is really interested in, all of a sudden all automated communication from the Swapit trading platform to the buyer ends up to be contextually relevant. Swapit cuts through the clutter and provides only that kind of information buyers are really looking for.
swapit-blog-immediacy     swapit-blog-location    swapit-blog_request

 

Why being Hyperlocal is such an Advantage

The world is changing. Today, more than 50% of the world’s population lives in an urban environment and that number is projected to increase over the decades to come (according to the World Bank). As a result, more and more people are moving to cities, which as a result become more and more densely populated.

The Swapit team is based in Hong Kong – one of the most densely populated places on planet earth. We believe, to some extend, Hong Kong is some kind of blueprint for how metropolitan cities will look like in the future. More people will take public transport, or Uber their way without an own car. More and more people will live in smaller and smaller apartments to preserve space and costs in cities that have limited space. Socially, the way of life will become more and more anonymous, to the fact where you don’t know all of your neighbors or even in years of living in the same building, you’ve never even met each of them at least once.

Swapit has been built and is continuously being improved for that very way of life. We are building a product for the future that has already started to happen. We are not stuck in the traditional classifieds model, but we embrace the connectivity and on-demand culture of our time.

Swapit is hyperlocal and no one else is.

Do you want to trade hyperlocal too? Get Swapit from http://get.swapit.la/now

Swapit covered by Tech In Asia

swapit-blog_techinasiaWe participated in the Tech In Asia Tour 2015 – Road to Tokyo last week. It was again a great event for us! We have gained a lot of experience and have received great feedback from the judges. More importantly though, we have received very great feedback from new users — some have even downloaded swapit right at the spot. Even some more told their loved ones about swapit and those went on downloading swapit. That’s absolutely great!

Tech In Asia as the organizer of the Tech In Asia Tour 2015 – Road to Tokyo, has now published a great blog post summarizing the whole event. It seems they also like our approach to turn the market for trading pre-loved good upside down. Check out Tech In Asia’s full blog post here: We weren’t blown away by the typhoon, but we were blown away by these 5 Hong Kong startups

If you haven’t downloaded swapit yet, you can get it at: http://get.swapit.la

Watch swapit Pitch at the TIA Tour to Tokyo at CoCoon (July 9th, 2015)

swapit-blog_techinasiaThe swapit team will pitch at the Tech In Asia Tour – Road to Tokyo 2015 event on July 9th, 2015.

Swapit has applied for the Tech In Asia Tour – Road to Tokyo a while back. Now we have received the invitation to pitch our platform to the audience and some great judges!

Since our last pitches, we have refined our value proposition a bit and especially worked on our business model which will come to swapit at the end of the year.

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Feel free to attend:

  • Get your ticket: RSVP here
  • Venue: CoCoon
  • Date: 9th July, 2015 — 6:30pm – 9:30pm
  • Location: 3/F, Citicorp Centre, 18 Whitfield Road, Tin Hau, Hong Kong
    How to get there

swapit-banner

Just look out for the guys in green – sporting our great swapit T-shirts – and our great swapit logo that has become famous already!

If you haven’t used swapit yet, you can download it at http://swapit.la

Read more about our previous pitches at CoCoon:

Recap: TechInAsia 2015 Singapore Conference – Feedback and Investors

swapit-blog_techinasiaAs mentioned before, swapit was present at TechInAsia with its very own booth.

I did not expect much from the conference. As swapit is currently available in Hong Kong only, we could not really reach out to new users because the TechInAsia conference took place in Singapore. We also couldn’t spend much on this conference (in fact, we don’t actually have any marketing budget for this), but to our advantage, we received the booth for free at the conference. It’s probably just a conference marketing perk to encourage startups to actually exhibit there, but it sold me. So I went over to Singapore by myself, the swapit pull up banner in hand and set up shop there.

Conference Goals

As we weren’t looking to recruit new users for swapit, our two main goals for the conference were:

  1. Get Feedback
  2. Talk to (potential) Investors

In terms of feedback, Singapore was the best place to go. Carousell, probably the most prominent competitor in the region has its home base in Singapore. (I will soon write a blog post about our competitors – watch out for it!) So many folks in Singapore were familiar with the concept of buy & sell apps for pre-loved items, which means they got me right away when I said: “Swapit is like Carousell, but better.” (read The idea behind swapit) Therefore, many people could quickly get the advantages swapit offers and whether or not they make sense to them. Hence, we received a lot of great feedback – very positive feedback directly on our approach, but also a lot of suggestions and different takes on the buy and sell market for second hand items. All that feedback will find its way into our next betas! So our goal of getting valuable first-hand feedback was achieved within a few hours of exhibiting.

In terms of talking to investors, I did not expect much actually. Being based in Hong Kong means you are not expecting much there — but that’s a different story. In fact, I was very surprised that there was a good crowd of investors present in Singapore, but not necessarily based in Singapore. They were very keen on talking numbers, vision, mission and market penetration. Obviously, I was happy to tell our story. I came prepared with a more refined pitch deck (thanks to our pitches, pitches, pitches, pitches, pitches before) and an updated executive summary to move things forward. We have now advanced to the next state. Once we close our current funding round, we will announce it here on our blog. If you’re interested to know more, feel free to reach out to me directly at patrick@swapit.la. So again, our goal of getting to talk to investors was more than satisfied.

In short: The trip to TechInAsia Singapore was well worth it!

Here are some impressions from before and a bit during the conference. There is no photo with myself on it. As soon as the doors opened, I was completely occupied for the whole day and didn’t even have enough time to grab a coffee in between or check emails. So there are no photos with actual people on our booth, but I guess you get the idea.

P.S.: Congrats to Hong Kong’s Easyship who won the pitch competition. We did not participate in that, though.

Recap: Tech in Asia Tour 2015 HK Event & British Chamber Business Angel Programme Vetting

Yesterday was a busy day. The swapit team attended the Tech in Asia Tour 2015 event and I presented to the vetting committee of the British Chamber of Commerce’s Business Angel Programme. Let’s reflect a bit on the experience of those events and especially the feedback we received about swapit.

Tech in Asia Tour 2015 HK Event

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Tech in Asia is a media, event, and startup platform company. They host an annual event in Singapore that used to be called “Startups Asia” and has now been re-branded to Tech in Asia Conference. As it’s a startup event, they are having startups presenting themselves there. The event was split up into two parts:

(1) Investor Panel

Comprised of some of Hong Kong’s most active investors (Tytus from Fresco Capital and Simon from Nest.vc, for example) as well as Asia-based investors (Vinnie from Golden Gate Ventures), their panel discussion was interesting.

swapit-blog_hkThe most interesting part in that panel discussion was the point of: start locally, but expand globally. That’s exactly what we are planning with swapit. We are absolutely aware of the fact that launching swapit in Hong Kong will not be enough in the long run. However, it is important to get our home market right and be the absolute market leader in this field here.

(2) Startup Pitches

It was great to see some established startups like Notey as well as brand new ones to pitch their ideas to the panel of judges. Some pitches were great, others were hard to listen to could improve their pitch, but even others started slow and then peeked my interest during their pitch. Like Cafe X for example. While I personally believe their approach might be challenging to turn into a profitable and widespread business, I still find the combination between hardware & software, and the goal of making our lives more efficient, very interesting.

This Hong Kong “Tech in Asia Tour” event was one of several all across Asia to gather startups to join the main conference in Singapore in early May this year. I just wonder why startups from other countries, like Japan for example, were pitching there even though they have their very own Tour event in Tokyo. Of course we had applied to pitch at the event as well, but we were not accepted. I am still trying to get feedback as to why we had not been accepted, but haven’t received any such yet. Perhaps we should apply for the Tokyo event?

Anyhow, at the same time, we took this opportunity to talk to other guests at the event. We were interested in people’s first reaction to swapit and our approach to buying and selling pre-loved items. Furthermore, we were looking to recruit more beta testers for our beta 3 of swapit which will launch soon! Remember: After the beta is before the beta!

British Chamber of Commerce Business Angel Programme – Vetting

Earlier that day, I was invited to pitch swapit to the vetting committee of the British Chamber of Commerce’s Business Angel Programme. That was a very interesting experience.

I believe the pitch went considerably well – especially as I finalized the pitch deck two hours before the pitch. As with most pitches, there are always two parts to it: the pitch itself and usually a Q&A session afterwards. That Q&A is often being used to “grill” the person pitching on inaccuracies of the pitch or points that were not very clear. To sum it up, we have two crucial points that we need to work on until the next pitch:

swapit_marketing-dollar(1) Make Money

I really can’t emphasize this enough: MAKE MONEY. Obviously, we have a plan moving forward in how we want to recover our development costs and build a profitable business out of swapit. We are absolutely sure that monetization is an important part of our business. At the moment, though, we are focusing on creating the best user experience for our users. Thus, we have not finalized any monetization plans yet, but we have ideas around 4 different ways of monetizing swapit – eventually. The one main approach that I find most interesting is to charge a commission on higher priced items.

Especially, as we are not looking at integrating any payment solutions into our app — in the foreseeable future — we don’t have a transaction occurring inside our app and therefore, it is hard to charge that commission to the user. In the end, we are only in beta 2 of swapit and our plan going forward in the near future contains analysis and feedback from our beta testers in terms of how they are comfortable with paying for our service.

That was obviously, a point the vetting committee grilled me on. And they are right! We need to find a way to monetize swapit and lock down a commercialization model that is predictable and scalable. Otherwise, we won’t be able to convince any investor to trust us with their money and generate value for them.

(2) Value Proposition to Convert Users of Free Services

The second point the vetting committee pointed out is: How can we convince users of other free services (Facebook groups, Asiaxpat, Geoexpat, Yahooo! forums, Craigslist etc.) to move away from what they are using right now and use swapit instead.

It’s a valid question. I thought, I had pointed this out in my presentation already, but obviously, our value proposition was not clear enough on that. Especially, when you combine this question with the commercialization ‘in-limbo’ question earlier — it becomes a challenging issue to tackle.

While I believe that our location-based capabilities (find nearby items, navigate to far away ones), immediacy in communication (instant messaging) and ease of use (post just with your phone, incl. taking photos) are some very valid arguments for using swapit instead of old-school forums — they might not be compelling enough to convert those users over to swapit.

We do obviously have to work on this value proposition and we will do that.

Let’s see what comes out of the vetting process and if we will be invited to the main event that allows us to pitch to the members of the Business Angel Programme of the British Chamber of Commerce in two weeks time. If the issues the vetting committee has pointed out were too much of a concern for them, we are happy to re-apply in their next round.

In any case, we will work on those points and we will nail them down to provide a compelling pitch to potential investors.


Signed up for the swapit beta yet? Request your invite here: http://swapit.la