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Jason Falls: Louisville-based Keepio puts personal spin on social commerce

by Jason Falls

Nick Huhn, left, and Dave Durand at Keepio offices in Butchertown

Sites such as eBay and Craig’s List democratized e-commerce and made the newspaper classifieds all but irrelevant.

Thanks to them, anyone can go online and, in a few minutes, sell stuff. And since they’re online and have share buttons, those anyones can promote said stuff through their networks.

But what the major players in the social commerce game miss, one Louisville-based start-up is trying to fix.

“eBay is clearly designed for power sellers, not the busy mom who just wants to let her friends know the toddler bed is up for grabs now,” said Dave Durand, CEO and co-founder of Keepio. “Craig’s List is just a site for classified ads, but you can’t actually buy anything through Craig’s List.

“In most cases, you have to volunteer personal information like your email, phone number or address to make the transaction.”

Keepio adds a major trump card to the social commerce game with its platform: Trust. Instead of publicly posting items you wish to sell in a public marketplace, the intent is to catalog what you own, make that list of stuff (“inventory” for you sophisticates out there) available to your friends, then buy, borrow or even swap with them.

“Think of the local SCUBA diving club,” explained Nick Huhn, Keepio’s chief marketing officer. “Diving – with all of its expensive equipment – can be a very expensive hobby. Rather than paying full retail price, hobbyists would rather borrow, rent or buy gently used items from someone they trust.

“With Keepio, they can see that Joe has the two-hour tank they need for a weekend dive and arrange for him to bring it to the monthly meet-up. And when it’s time to upgrade to new equipment, Joe can use Keepio as a local, micro-marketplace where other enthusiasts buy and sell goods with a little more skin in the game than a wholesaler in some New Jersey warehouse.”

Think of it as lemon-proofing your bargain shopping experience. When you’re buying something from someone you trust, you get the honest assessment of it, not a sales job.

“Better yet, think of the sustainability and green angle to this,” chimed Durand. “Nick knows I’ve got every Disney DVD made because my daughter is nuts about princesses. Instead of heaping more plastic into landfills, he can just borrow them from me because I catalog my DVD collection on Keepio.”

The site has only been live for a few months (technically still “a prototype” according to Durand) but has users from 71 countries and is getting attention from technology watchers such as TheNextWeb.com. The business is bootstrapped by Durand, Jesse Lucas, Jon Shaw and Huhn, all but the last of whom make up the core team at Forest Giant, a digital marketing agency formerly known as Visual Scientists.

“Jesse came to me after the holidays last year and we started brainstorming a product idea to expand what we were doing with the agency,” Durand said. “We wanted to build something cool, but useful. Jesse said, ‘I have all this stuff … a comic book collection, a knife collection … but I have no way to catalog it. No web-friendly service offers this.”

“As we talked, we realized that cataloging your collections or even kid’s toys, tools and so on, was really useful if you added that social element to the tool,” Durand continued. “If I need a power washer for my deck, I’d rather have a way to know that my co-worker, Jon, has one instead of buying or renting one from a hardware store. Then I could just ask to borrow it. Without Keepio, I may never have known that connection existed.”

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