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send the donor a paid mailing label through a service like PayPal or Amazon. The donor specifies whether the item is a gift, or on loan. Yerdle also encourages members to post stories on the site about the fun they had helping a friend while freeing up space in the house.
At this point, Yerdle has 20,000 members, and about 1,000 items are exchanged each month, Ruben says. But with its new mobile app, Yerdle now seeks to scale up the digital marketplace by opening up its “socially connected garage sale” to users outside Yerdle members’ personal networks.
The expansion was an inevitable step for Yerdle’s growth, says Greenstart’s Lowe.
“They had to open it up,” Lowe says. “The marketplace needs a certain amount of supply and demand, and more supply makes more demand.”
The system of Yerdle credits was also needed as a form of currency for the larger marketplace, Lowe says. But it also reinforces the social motivation to offer new items and invite friends to use the platform. The credits are a form of recognition for being generous to friends and strangers while reducing the onslaught of newly manufactured goods into the environment, he says.
“Social capital is really, really powerful,” Lowe says.
At this stage, Yerdle is focusing on building its network and encouraging engagement with it, Ruben says. Yerdle is trying to make giving and trading as easy as possible. “Posting on the new app is two clicks,” Ruben says. Among the demographic groups most attracted to Yerdle are mothers of young children whose needs are constantly changing as they grow, and “an asset-light group of tech-forward individuals in the city who are proud not to need to own a house full of things,” he says.
On the revenue side, Yerdle is experimenting with a members’ “pay-what-you-want” option for the service. During Earth Week in April, Yerdle supplied a sharing platform for NBCUniversal, which encouraged fans to exchange their used goods. The entertainment conglomerate also offered its own items, such as Tonight Show mugs and props from shows on Chiller, the monster and zombie channel.
Ruben says Yerdle has a natural affinity for companies such as outdoor gear makers REI and Patagonia, which sell durable goods that can be handed down for many years of useful service. Yerdle could be used to help such companies build long-term relationships with their customers, by featuring stories about the enduring quality of their products, he says. An outfitter such as REI could encourage customers who want to try a new activity to look for, say, an experienced white-water rafting enthusiast who might lend them gear, or even teach them how to use it, before they spend hundreds of dollars on their own equipment.
Companies with growing networks, such as Instagram, can become acquisition targets for social networking giants like Facebook. But Lowe, an investor, says he isn’t trying to predict any path to profits from Yerdle. If the company develops a major marketplace, Lowe says, there will be a way to monetize it.
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