Ubokia: Putting The Buyer Back In Charge
Mark Pine is a former venture capital investor who decided to come out of retirement recently to lead Ubokia, a startup that creates flexible marketplaces around any type of product or service, with the buyers setting the terms of the deal, and with multiple suppliers then competing for those deals.
Mr Pine used to work at Sybase and OnDisplay, and at Sigma Partners, a leading VC firm.
Here are some notes from our meeting:
- The company launched in November and has about 200 thousand members, and more than 400 thousand unique visitors a month.
- The goal is to reverse the way people buy and sellers sell. Why should sellers try to figure out what people want, then try to find where they are? Think of a reverse Craigslist or a reverse eBay.
- Ubokia has developed the infrastructure to create marketplaces where people gather, such as large blog sites around a particular topic. The goal is to aggregate peoples' interests in a product and then suppliers can compete for that business. It's similar to Groupon except that the suppliers don't give up a big chunk of their revenues to Groupon.
- Key segments so far: automobile markets and accessories; collectibles; electronics and cameras; furniture, and apartments.
- Apartments have been a popular category, people might have many different requirements, such as an east facing bedroom, and they can state those and have landlords compete for those renters.
- Future plans include an ability to let users create an "I want" request on anything they see on the web and then edit that to specify color, or other attributes.
- All future transactions should take place this way, it empowers buyers rather than them being "sold" to. The marketplace comes to the buyer.
- There are opportunities for local communities to create a demand for a common product, such as heating oil, and receive a discount.
- By bringing the marketplace to buyers, the buyers can also help each other find good products and stay away from bad ones, sharing their experiences.
- Safety and trust are important and Ubokia has ways of certifying buyers and sellers. Some people won't use services such as Craigslist because of safety concerns.
- The way e-commerce works today is backwards, it is designed for sellers and not buyers, and people have forgotten that, "the customer is always right." It's difficult to speak to a person because sellers are trying to reduce their own costs at the expense of a good experience for buyers.
- The company uses algorithms to try to understand what buyers are looking for when they describe products and define options such as color.
- The system also acts as a messaging platform allowing buyers and sellers to connect and negotiate.
- It's a business that is essentially very much along the lines of Doc Searl's recent book "The Intention Economy."
- Ubokia is derived from a Japanese work to buy, and the "u" refers to an utopia for buyers.
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More information from Ubokia:
Ubokia.com is an online community designed to help you get exactly what YOU want, whether it's a bicycle, a job or a few good volunteers. Share your WANT on Ubokia, and the community works to help fulfill it. It's a simple and powerful way to connect with the people and things you're passionate about.