San Diego’s Antengo Marching to Next Round in Mobile Classified Ads
Marcus Wandell tells me he was attending a music festival in New York City’s Lower East Side in 2009, “getting price-gouged on a $12 beer,” when he came up with the idea for Antengo. What if there was a mobile app that could help you find the nearby places to buy a less-expensive beer?
Since then, the concept has broadened beyond serving as a marketplace for finding deals at live events to encompass the universe of classified advertising.
“It started as a B2C play, but it has evolved into a peer-to-peer exchange” says Wandell, who was working in digital advertising for Microsoft at the time. Antengo’s CEO says he interviewed 40 prospective co-founders before meeting Hunter Jensen, a Web and mobile app developer in San Diego. Jensen already had experience with online classified ads, but he was reluctant to leave San Diego, so they agreed to start the company here.
They founded Antengo in 2010, and in four months developed their flagship product—a free mobile app for iOS that provides a real-time, location-based platform for listing and selling anything from concert tickets to coffee makers.
Listings are just 144 characters, leading the company to describe its technology as “Craigslist meets Twitter for mobile.”
In a little over two years, Antengo has featured more than 5 million classified ads and job postings. More recently, Wandell and Jensen have extended Antengo’s core technology from Apple’s iOS to the Android operating system, Samsung Galaxy tablet, Windows Phone, and the Kindle Fire.
After downloading Antengo’s free app, users can browse listings without logging in, using simple keyword searches. Users who want to post a listing must register. Antengo listings are also posted automatically to Craigslist, but one of the big advantages to mobile classifieds is what you might call mobile scalping—real-time offerings of tickets for things like concerts, festivals, and sporting events. Listings are searchable by the location (and proximity), time published, and other categories. Antengo also enables buyers and sellers to send instant messages without sharing their user names or phone numbers.
Now Wandell says Antengo is ready to take a bigger step—to look for substantially more capital than the $575,000 raised so far, and to expand the company’s technology beyond its existing five mobile products. More than two-thirds of the company’s seed funding came from one investor, which Wandell describes only as the venture arm of a Fortune 500 company, with the rest coming from individual investors. “We don’t need to raise a massive Series A round,” Wandell says, “but we need to scale and build on our momentum.”
Antengo has counted more than 250,000 cumulative downloads of its app, and the number of active users doubled during the third quarter that ended September 30, Wandell says.
Antengo also has added some key management expertise to the original team, which includes roughly 10 full-time and part-time employees. Eric Franchomme, who led advanced mobile software development at San Diego’s PacketVideo and has deep Android experience, joined Antengo as vice president of engineering. Former Chumby Industries CEO Derrick Oien also agreed to consult with Wandell on business development—even though Oien has a full-time job as the founding CEO of ScoreStream, a startup with a mobile app for crowd-sourcing prep sports scores.
Wandell acknowledges that Craigslist represents a huge challenge, and Antengo faces lots of other startup competition from companies like Vendly, Slinggit, Zaarly, and Tradyo (along with mobile versions of Web classified startups like Oodle, Monster, and Trulia. But he maintains that no one has nailed the mobile user experience and “the space is still wide open for the taking.” As one of the first entries—Antengo refers to its team as “pioneers of mobile classifieds”—Wandell says the company is a first mover with the best plan in place to saturate the market the fastest.
“Our main role is connecting the buyer and seller,” Wandell says. “Our main difference from Craigslist is that they can’t empower the mobile seller to close the transaction, and they can’t get behind the seller in the way eBay creates power sellers.”
Antengo takes a similar approach, through a featured selling model that elevates listings for sellers who pay a nominal fee. With millions of listings, Wandell says, “Our sellers have a tougher time getting exposure because we have so much content now.”
The company also has been developing mobile payment technology that enables buyers to use PayPal or Google Wallet, or to pay for a transaction through their cellular service provider. Antengo would take a small percentage of each sale, and Wandell says that represents the larger and more long-term revenue stream.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” Wandell says. “We’ve got a good upward growth curve, and we think we’re poised for a Series A round in the first quarter of next year.”