Diego Zambrano moved to the US from Brazil and promptly taught himself English using Twitter.
That part of his story is fairly unique, but the thing that inspired him to build a startup is quite common: He landed a decent paying job and discovered the joys of Amazon’s one-click shopping.
Spending money online is a fun pastime, he discovered, until you have to move. And in New York, it’s a basic fact of life that you’ll have to move. Many times. Only then do you realize how much crap you’ve accumulated over the years (months?), and what the hell are you going to do with all of this stuff?
This realization leads to a weird ethical debate between convenience and guilt. I’ve noticed it among many of my peers around moving time. No one wants to send something to a landfill that, in the right hands, is perfectly usable. And yet, finding the right hands to put all of your perfectly usable, but unwanted goods into is a massive time suck. Most of the time we don’t even really want money for the items, we just don’t want to be wasteful consumers.
I imagine it’s worse outside of New York, where people own entire houses with basements and garages and attics that they fill with things. And I don’t even need to extend this problem to the hoarding and storage unit culture. Quite simply, it is far easier to buy things than it is to sell them, and that is a problem many startups, including Bondsy, want to solve.
Marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay are stressful and time consuming. Even donating things to charity is too much of a hassle for some people. Facebook and Flickr can sometimes work, even though they offer no functionality for that purpose. Bondsy, Zambrano’s startup, aims for a middle ground between the two.
The mobile app allows friends to post, and then sell or give items to their circle of Facebook friends. They can share your items with their own circles of Facebook friends, and so on. It’s set up to be incredibly simple and seamless, to the point where you notice a shirt in your closet you’ve never worn, you can snap a photo on your phone, post it, and a friend can claim it in exchange for buying you a drink.
The payment element is Bondsy’s crucial differentiator from, say, marketplaces like Zaarly and Taskrabbit, or SocialListing, or any of these guys. Bondsy won’t process any payments or deal with money, because it doesn’t care if users are earning a profit on their things. “There are behaviors other than money, like buying your friend dinner, that are more interesting,” Zambrano says. The point is to lower the barrier to getting rid of things. “People are moving from money to a purpose. They won’t be going to Bondsy to make money, but to put things back,” he says.
Zambrano believes other marketplace companies are merely trying to replace Craigslist by offering a better design and mobile experience. That won’t necessarily work, he says, because no one cares about design as long as there is liquidity, and Craigslist already has liquidity. “No one has been able to take down Craigslist since 1995,” he says. “We’re going after a set of users who don’t use marketplaces.”
Philosophically, I am on board. Practically, I have no idea, because Bondsy doesn’t launch for another month. I previewed the site at TechStars New York’s demo day today, and it seems to deliver. Sign up for the launch here.