I’ve used the Craigslist mobile app on my iPhone for numerous successful transactions. Generally speaking I like it. Its design is a bit clunky, but it works. I’ve also enjoyed elements of the new geosocial exchanges of information, services and objects like Localmind and Zaarly (which had a bit of a privacy slip-up recently) and noob Grabio.
Then there was the intriguing MapDing — which launched in September 2010, attempting to bring together all of these technologies exercising shopping behaviors into one app: there were passive wish lists, radius-setting, notifications… The app seemed to be heading in a unique direction, but then abruptly decided to change. By March, MapDing’s team was “already in the middle of re-writing the application from scratch, back-end and front-end,” according to co-founder Jack Eisenberg: “Our 1.0 version was just a way to throw the idea out there and see what sticks,” he said. “…what features people like, what UX is right for a marketplace experience on a mobile device.” He also told me he’s tried Craigslist Mobile, but was tired of the “scammers and spammers.”
So this week MapDing became Goshi (a free iPhone / iPad app) in the hopes of righting previous wrongs in hyper-mobile commerce, and adding a missing coolness factor. I caught up with Eisenberg to get a read on what we can expect from the app.
Why did you rebrand and shift the product 10 months after launching MapDing?
We rebranded after doing a complete redesign of the application. The name MapDing didn’t seem to fit the concept or the image, and when we came up with Goshi, through a mix of Google Translate and some brainstorming, it seemed to be cool, fun, and a better match for our user experience.
Surely you’ve looked at others in geolocation commerce like Zaarly. How are you hoping that Goshi will be better?
Zaarly is about high-intent, time-sensitive demand for products and services. We are much more about visualizing the items and events around you, and connecting with the people who share interests and socialize at similar places through these posts. In other words, we are a marketplace much more about discovery and social connections, as opposed to a simple buyer-seller marketplace.
You’ve been live for a few days. How are things going?
We can’t give any numbers just yet, as we are focusing our launch efforts for the remainder of the summer on Chicago (the official launch market), targeting hyperlocal hubs and communities. I will say that our engagement numbers and conversion rates are very high, and people from around the country have asked us to set up hubs wherever they may be. Popular places include Seattle, DC, S.F., Des Moines, Austin and Boulder.
You don’t handle any transactions, right? What is your business model?
We don’t handle transactions at the moment, but are looking to work with some up and coming mobile payment platforms to provide seamless consumer-to-consumer transactions. We have also had a lot of interest from local independent retailers and street festival organizers to create private commercial hubs where stores and businesses can post items and information to.
Why do you suppose Craigslist has not been more aggressive with mobile?
From what I understand, they have a very active user base, regardless of their user experience, and simply haven’t expressed an interest in alienating a portion of the user base that might not be mobile. Mobile does not seem to be something on their radar.
Having people meet at designated locations to trade or sell items is novel — how do you choose locations?
We did a lot of research into the specific locations, particularly coffee shops, where buyers and sellers meet up to transact. We spent several weeks talking to and observing users, and the initial locations reflect our experience. These specific coffee shops already have existing communities and unique themes around art, biking, or technology.
Do you work with store owners?
We like to work with store owners to ensure that, as a hub, they are getting the proper foot traffic and exposure.
How do you plan on rolling out the service to other cities?
We are focusing on Chicago for now, where we are based. Our initial plan was to head to SF and NYC next, but there has also been a strong interest for smaller urban areas. We expect to have a list of cities we will roll out to by the end of the summer, after seeing what our Chicago users like, and the best way to get traction in these communities.
You and the team developed Goshi in Excelerate Labs… tell me about how the lab works and why you chose that path.
Excelerate has been an incredible learning experience. It involves one month of mentorship and feedback (about 80 meetings in 15 days), one month of building and execution, and a month of preparing for demo day. It seemed like a great fit for our business, and I couldn’t imagine doing an accelerator anywhere else. Our product is the consequence of intense feedback and user experience research.
How did you decide on features?
We did extensive research around the process of buying and selling in specific, nearby places like coffee shops. We did a lot of research with local independent artists, and the needs they have around selling their work to people nearby, as well as local independent retailers and their needs for a mobile platform.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Rick Robinson’s Turf Talk column appears every Wednesday on Street Fight.