So what’s some of the latest news with the folks at StartupAnywhere? In between other things, we’ve been hard at work on both peer-to-peer and multivendor marketplaces. We launched two peer-to-peer marketplaces to test out the open source Ruby on Rails (RoR) software we modified to support our upcoming WeDevs Dokan WordPress WooCommerce multivendor marketplace. The first, https://bootstrapadventure.com is for outdoor enthusiasts and it was launched in late November 2014 and we now have a few hundred users with a handful of items trading hands. We have also launched a blog for adventurers to chat about outdoor adventures and to support the peer-to-peer outdoor adventure marketplace. That is located at https://blog.bootstrapadventure.com
The second peer-to-peer site, https://schooner.bootstrapadventure.com, is for people with boating related items to sell, swap, or give away. We launched the second site three weeks ago and it’s still pretty small with less than 100 users and just a few — mostly test — posts. Overall having those sites launched is a pretty cool thing and, as intended, we are learning from the experience.
What’s not so cool is that the RoR platform is tricky for us to update and harder for our users to actually use than we expected and we’ve not yet had a stampede of users signing up and posting their stuff for buy/sell/trade. Considering these are two totally free marketplaces we’re a little bit puzzled by the lite use. We see, right now, there are three barriers to wide-spread use that we need to overcome:
1. It is a membership site so the folks do have to sign in with their Facebook account or they must provide a verifiable email. Membership sites are a little slower than open door sites, we know, and we may just open it up to all– like Craigslist.
2. The format may not provide the best desktop user experience. We know the mobile experience fares better than most and even though it is a simple site it may not be as intuitive as we thought. For example, we were excited by the ability to have posts world-wide and for people to find each other easily but we’re learning that our users haven’t explored the mapping or other search functionality of the site.
3. Trust – This is a biggie because people are still asking “what’s the hitch? This can’t be free!” and really do not believe that we’ve offered the peer-to-peer sites with no strings attached.
The fourth issue is that we haven’t broadcast the sites’ information fully saying “we’re here, we’re here, we’re here!” and that will be next, for sure.
We also have been working on evaluating existing software and writing software that will allow us to launch one or more multivendor marketplaces. The differences between the peer-to-peer and multivendor sites are subtle but important to us. The purpose of the peer-to-peer site is simply to let people swap with others like themselves and with as little interference from us as possible and, as long as we’re not involved in the transaction, at no cost to them nor profit to us.
The multivendor site is intended for use by vendors who are making money from their wares and we are providing the marketplace as a paid service to help them achieve their sales goals. Our target vendors (our customers) are small businesses, nonprofits, or individuals who don’t necessarily have an online store presence but would be helped by such a presence in target industries or locations that are not otherwise easily reached.
Because we are familiar with both the sailing and classic boat worlds, one of our goals is a nautical marketplace. We have a short list of other marketplace contenders by industry and location but plan to launch the nautical one, https://schoonerchandlery.com first. When rebuilding our classic sailboat, we found it difficult to find good sources and materials without great delay or high prices. We suspect that many other DIY-ers with all boats are in the same situation as we were and that classic boat owners may be overwhelmed at times by a lack of proper resources at reasonable cost. As we live aboard and cruise with our schooner, we also encounter many budding entrepreneurs with a variety of businesses aboard cruising sailboats and we like the idea of helping get their stuff to market, as well. Aggregating our nautical vendors as well as some related information into one place will help many people. Further, aggregating the wares of cruising sailors as well as classic boat owners into our nautical marketplace can give our target vendors an “edge” in getting their offerings in front of interested and motivated buyers. I am especially enthused about being able to share information about cruising sailors alongside their store and to share information about a maritime museum, schooner, or tall-ship alongside their memorabilia or other wares.
Though our first multivendor marketplace hasn’t yet launched, while putting together the code for a couple features we need in our own multivendor marketplaces, we’ve managed to develop some immediately useful software products and skills. This is not really surprising because there are not all that many successful niche-market multivendor marketplaces yet but there are many, many people interested in creating these marketplaces.
We have chosen to use WordPress as our platform for multi-vendor marketplace, WooCommerce as our store basis, and we’ve selected WeDevs Dokan as the most intuitive and easy seller interface for our vendors to work with. The add-ons we developed, so far, allow the use of Stripe Connect (Stripe for Marketplaces) as well as tools for sales tax in multiple state and local tax jurisdictions. The former tool allows the sellers to be paid more quickly and effortlessly, the latter tool is needed by almost any multivendor marketplace that has vendors in multiple tax jurisdictions.
Perhaps you are interested in help from StartupAnywhere in putting together your own marketplace? Or maybe you are an entrepreneur or nonprofit who would like more information about becoming part of our soon-to-launch nautical marketplace? Or would you like to license our software, or you need other software to support your own interests in a WordPress multivendor marketplace? Please feel free to contact us here with our contact form. Just make sure and include the reason you’re contacting us (e.g. you’d like our software, or your own store in the nautical marketplace, or you’d like our help with your Dokan multivendor marketplace). StartupAnywhere’s original goal remains to help entrepreneurs start and run their business from anywhere they choose: small town, big city, or even the open road or sea. That hasn’t changed and we look forward to hearing from you!