Video of Bo Fishback delivering the Zaarly pitch at Startup Weekend Los Angeles on February 20, 2011. Video from TeamTwillio on YouTube.
Over the course of three weeks, Zaarly will go from building a prototype and pitching Hollywood celebrity and startup investor Ashton Kutcher to aggresively launching at the tech industry’s largest conference, South by Southwest Interactive. If their quick turnaround isn’t turning heads by itself, the team is confident its product will do just that.
“We think Zaarly has the chance to really change things on a massive scale,” said Zaarly’s founder, Bo Fishback of Kansas City, in a recent email interview. “This is not a niche play or a boutique application, this is a whole new platform.”
Just over a week ago, a nine-person team led by Fishback launched the product at Startup Weekend Los Angeles, at which Kutcher was one of five judges. The team took home the top prize, and has since regrouped and reset itself to three members: Fishback as CEO, Eric Koester as COO, and Ian Hunter as CTO.
So, what is Zaarly? If you haven’t yet watched the video above of Fishback giving the pitch at Startup Weekend (which I strongly suggest you do), Zaarly is a proximity-based, real-time buyer powered market. In other words, Fishback, Koester and Hunter aim to flip ecommerce on its head – instead of a seller listing the price of a good, the buyer lists the price he or she is willing pay for a good.
Screenshot from the video of Fishback’s Startup Weekend pitch showing an example of a potential Zaarly posting: someone willing to pay $175 for a four-person table reservation at an exclusive restaurant in Beverly Hills. Screenshot from the video posted by TeamTwillio on YouTube.
“Buyers make an offer for an immediate need and sellers cash in on an infinite marketplace for items and services they never knew were for sale,” said Fishback in the email interview. “It can be said a lot of different ways, it’s the world’s first Cash Market – where the buyer leads the transaction by saying what they are willing to pay for something and the seller discovers what other people are willing to pay for things they might already have.”
“If you’ve ever said, ‘I’d pay ________ for _________ in the next ________ minutes or hours,’ then Zaarly is for you. The uses are really endless. For the first time ever, we’re putting the buyer at the center of the universe. Zaarly is the place where everything has a price,” said Fishback. “No more waiting in line if you’re willing pay, upgrade your seats in any venue by buying someone’s front row experience, never wait for a table a restaurant again, need a charger or an outlet at a busy airport? What’s it worth to you?”
Today, a similar market exists on Craigslist‘s “Item’s Wanted” section (left, screenshot of listings from Kansas City’s “Item’s Wanted”), but with the addition of geolocation and real-time streaming of listings, Zaarly promises to give consumers a new and more relevant version of the classifieds.
Since launching their teaser page on zaarly.com on February 20th (screenshot below), the day of the Startup Weekend pitch, the team has been taking requests for early access. With their planned SXSW launch on March 11th, however, they’ve created a special sign up page at sxsw.zaarly.com, which Fishback noted: “Awesomely enough, we’re using LaunchRock (a Startup Weekend company) to handle this part of the process.” As it goes through beta testing, it’ll be free to use.
In addition to the website, look for Zaarly to hit the three major app stores, as well (iPhone, Android, and Blackberry). And come the days when geeks from around the globe fill the halls of the Austin Convention Center and 6th Street, look to Zaarly for the place to buy your exclusive ticket to the party that features, quite possibly, former Startup Weekend judge Ashton Kutcher. His appearance at SXSW 2010 made quite a splash, now Zaarly looks to do the same at SXSW 2011.
Screenshot of sxsw.zaarly.com