Former VP of Entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation, Bo Fishback, has certainly seen a lot of startups labeled “the next big thing,” but perhaps none of them were predicted to be as huge as Zaarly, the startup he co-founded with Eric Koester and Ian Hunter.
Built a couple months ago over the course of the L.A. Startup Weekend, Zaarly has been in a whirlwind since. After winning first prize at the Startup Weekend, the company received a massive $1 million in funding from a hefty group of investors that includes Lightbank (the venture fund created by Groupon’s founders), Gmail inventor Paul Buchheit, and Ashton Kutcher (no kidding!).
Zaarly is a real-time, auction-style startup that connects buyers with sellers in their own communities and serves as a marketplace for items and services that, up until now, haven’t explicitly had a market. Let’s say you’re dying for banana ice cream and you don’t even dare to imagine what will happen if you don’t get it in the next 30 minutes, Zaarly lets you announce your willingness to shell out money for someone who can get the ice cream in time for you and then facilitates the exchange.
Anyone who signs up for the service can post a job —”bring me a Starbucks latte,” “lend me your adapter,” “teach my kid algebra”— and other users in the area can browse offers and apply to complete offers that appeal to them. It is indeed, as Fishback says, “a proximity-based, real-time, buyer-powered market.”
“Commerce between individuals happens all around us every single day. But until now, the opportunity to discover who in your community might already have what you are looking for was lost in a sea of noise. Now, whether you are buying groceries, need to find a caterer, want a ticket to a sold-out playoff game or are looking to borrow a flatbed truck for the day, you can use Zaarly to find out if someone close by has what you’re looking for.” – Bo Fishback
To protect users’ identities, Zaarly lets potential buyers and sellers talk anonymously via message or phone about the potential deal, and the platform incorporates a secure credit card payment system. Given the real-time emphasis of the site, the company has a strong mobile focus. The site is available on all web-enabled phones, including the iPhone and Android, as well as through the web and Facebook on your desktop.