eBay is a sprawling market today, but when it was founded in 1995, it was based on a simple idea: Collectors love to gather to trade their wares and hobnob about their passions. The Internet, Pierre Omidyar knew, was a way to get those folks out of parking lot flea markets and into a place where they could more efficiently find buyers and sellers, and chat about the items that delighted them.
Yardsellr, which launched earlier this year, is built on the same premise: the Internet can be a way to efficiently connect collectors. But Yardsellr’s big idea is that standalone websites—like eBay—are passé. The best way to connect buyers and sellers today, says founder Danny Leffel, is within their Facebook News Feeds.
"When eBay started, the web was lonely place," says Leffel, who himself worked at eBay for five years, managing various categories. "If you had time, eBay was a fascinating place to kill time. As the years progressed, as Facebook and Twitter emerged, those became the places where you go to kill time."
Yardsellr is moving the business of trading to Facebook. It works like this: You go to the Yardsellr website and "Like" the categories of items you’d like to hear about: Purses, Books, or Hello Kitty, for example. When a seller has something to offer in your chosen category, it shows up in your Facebook News Feed. Just as eBay made it possible to trade from within the comfort of your own home, Yardsellr makes it possible to trade from within the comfort of their social network.
The service went live at the beginning of this year. Since then, 1.5 million people have joined, and 20,000 more jump on every day, Leffel says. He won’t divulge how many items have traded hands, saying only that the number is in the "thousands" and that the amount of transactions double every eight weeks. (Leffel says his reticence is due to concern that future reports will cite out-of-date figures.)
The most active categories are Jewelry, Guitars, Quilting, Scrap booking, Knitting, and Star Wars collectibles. That’s because, Leffel says, they play to Yardsellr’s strength: Turning commerce into "content." Extensive conversations take place among Yardsellr members in the comments below the News Feed posts (as in the image above), giving traders the social connection they thrived on back when eBay started and that still exists today in those parking lot flea markets.
"Traditional retail companies rely on purchase intent," Leffel says. "They place ads in search engines and try to grab customers who’ve already expressed an intent to buy something."
"We look for users who have passion around certain things, and then we inspire that intent."