Sharetribe began life as a hyperlocal research project for a university in Finland allowing students to buy from each other and share rides.
Today, farmers renting tractors in Canada, photographers searching for venues in the United States and pet owners looking for carers in Mexico are flocking to the open-source platform to buy and sell goods and services.
— We have the technology if you have the community, says Juho Makkonen, CEO and co-founder of the Helsinki-based startup, which lets people create their own peer-to-peer marketplace.
And it seems there’s no end to the communities in sight from selling rodeo equipment to renting surfboards, from booking a nanny to ordering a cake, from hiring a DIY expert to finding a venue for a pop-up store.
Since the site’s launch with first paying customers in 2013, paying customer numbers are in the three figures. The company hopes they’ll be in four figures by the end of this year with the sky the limit after that.
— We thought finding these entrepreneurs would be our most difficult problem but once we put the website out there enabling people to create their own marketplace, they suddenly started contacting us, says Makkonen.
— They might not be the next Airbnb, the next billion dollar business, but they can still be an extremely good local business, supporting multiple people.
The company is riding the wave of the sharing economy, which is expected to grow dramatically.
In the two months since Finland’s premier tech conference Slush in November, when Sharetribe made global payments possible, more than 2000 people have created their own websites. Not all of them are expected to convert to paying customers at the end of the 30 day free trial but the trend is clear.
Speed and ease
Makkonen says what makes Sharetribe attractive is the speed and ease of setting it up, involving as little as 60 seconds to create a new marketplace. You can then customize it yourself and it is much cheaper than hiring a developer.
— What WordPress did for publishing we want to do for creating marketplaces, he says.
He adds that the company’s biggest challenge is that some customers are expecting the sort of services and support provided by giants like Airbnb or eBay while Sharetribe currently has just nine employees (including one in Canada and one in the US).
Sharetribe charges a subscription for the overall service with fees depending on the number of users each client has on their site. Clients make money by taking a cut of any transaction.
The company is planning to experiment with other business models, which may range from charging a membership fee to placing banner ads.
© Sari Gustafsson / Lehtikuva
Text: Vincent Landon