Dollars Not the Only Way to do Business, Especially in a Recession

6/17/09

In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt outlawed the hoarding of gold, ending its use as the basis of U.S. currency. Since then, the American (and the rest of the world) economy has relied on paper currency based on trust in a particular government and a currency’s value relative to other monetary systems around the world.

Sometimes though, someone wakes up and decides to spread a new dream of wealth. Here in Seattle, I’ve come across three different examples of companies with a new dream of wealth that isn’t built on dollars and cents, built rather on using technology to advance entirely new notions of how people exchange goods and services.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about a Seattle startup called Dibspace.com and how it is creating a mini-economy based on its own currency. Alternate means of commerce tend to gain momentum during recessions, when people feel short on cash. It turns out Dibspace founder Dominic Canterbury is not alone in taking advantage of the economic climate for alternative currency. Two other Seattle-area alternate barter startups, Divvy.com, founded by Aaron Freed, and Kashless.org, founded by Martin Tobias, have started within the past year.

“It’s a way to monetize physical goods in the real world,” Tobias says.

Money is sometimes not the only goal of these sites and their users. Helping the environment is an important aspect of Kashless, Tobias says. Unlike Dibspace and Divvy, Kashless isn’t about buying and selling—all the items listed on the site are free. “In a recession, people want free stuff,” he says. Whether it’s a slightly emptied bottle of sunscreen or an entire set of bedroom furniture, everything offered is free. And because of the way Tobias set up the website, people can use what they give away as tax deductions the same as if they gave it to Goodwill, only much more than just clothes or small goods. Tobias aims to make money from value-added services, like shipping and delivery, as well as advertising on the site. He also plans on creating a way for people to track the positive impact of giving away goods instead of sending them to the dump. He plans to do this by … Next Page »

Eric Hal Schwartz was an intern in Xconomy's Seattle office. Follow @

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