Two Internet Entrepreneurs and Their Yet-to-be-Named Online Resale Marketplace
The best description of the San Diego Web-based business that Jan Anton and Brendan Boyd have developed may be a symbolic cloud that includes the corporate logos for eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, and other online markets.
For the time being, that image also happens to be the current logo for their startup, which was known until last week as iSelfStore.com. Now the two Internet entrepreneurs are searching for a new name because iSelfStore really only exemplifies half of the online business they have conceived.
The website they created is both an online hub that helps users to keep an inventory of their belongings—and enables them to list items for sale on multiple online markets at the same time. “The real value of our application is not in the self-storage, or the inventory part of it,” Boyd says. “The value is in having the ability to sell your stuff across multiple market places.”
Their beta-stage software makes it easy for users to create a home page where they can easily upload images of their favorite surfboard, a wedding dress, gas barbecue, and other items—and to share those images with friends and relatives. It also enables users to simultaneously list items for sale with online classifieds, auction sites, and social networking sites. Using the website to inventory items would be free, but the yet-to-be-named website would charge a premium fee to those who want to use it as a sales platform.
“Users are provided one-click access to sell items across eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, Oodle, iList, Facebook, MySpace, AOL, and more,” Boyd told me. “Users are provided with marketplace and pricing recommendation tools, the ability to maintain a personal online inventory, full functionality from mobile devices, and even the ability to share, trade or give away items to their personal network of family and friends. We maximize your exposure to the marketplace, decrease the sales cycle time, and improve profit margins for online selling—all while saving you time.”
Anton and Boyd explained the concept originated as a Web-based inventory service for their third partner, Eric Jacobson, a former pharmaceutical executive who acquired a San Diego moving and storage business four years ago.
“What he wanted was something he could use to help keep track of the stuff that goes into the storage warehouse,” Boyd said. “He was saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if we could use a cell-phone camera and take pictures of everything that goes into storage, and just go boom-boom-boom, and then you’d have a picture inventory of everything that’s in there.'”
“But we didn’t want it to be inventory software,” Anton added. “We wanted it to be Web-based.” Following that came the idea for expanding the Web-based inventory to include social networking features, so friends and relatives could share pictures of items they wanted to show off, sell, or give away. And after that came the idea for listing items for sale by linking with multiple online marketplaces, and even with local chapters of Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army.
“We have two small kids and my wife is constantly saying, ‘I’ve got this box of 3-to-6-months clothes that we need to give away,” Boyd said. “So essentially, we make it easy to take pictures of your stuff and to upload it to the website.”
The website includes features that make it possible to share the images with messages that include, “Borrow This Anytime,” “Make Me an Offer,” and “Take It, It’s Yours.” And with the economic downturn, Boyd added, “there’s been a boom in bartering and trading.”
Anton estimates there are about 11 million U.S. households storing stuff for 14 months a year or longer. He describes the website as a centralized platform to help users dispose of a range of personal belongings— from the lowest spectrum of value, which are items to give away, to the highest spectrum of value, which are the items to sell or the heirlooms that get passed onto a friend or relative.
Anton and Boyd told me they started developing their website more than a year ago. They self-funded the project mostly with proceeds from Document Tracking Services, a company they co-founded in 2005 that provides Web-based document management and software services for school districts throughout California and Maryland. They believe they now have reached the stage where they need outside funding, and told me they’ve begun to look for angel investors willing to provide between $250,000 and $500,000 in funding.
That’s all they need for the time being, Boyd said. That, and a new name.