February 14, 2012
Craigslist, you best watch your back: others have you in their crosshairs.
The next attempt at disrupting the local marketplace giant comes from Uniiverse, “the world’s marketplace for collaborative living.”
Think Airbnb for a wider set of services and skill sharing- a mojito tasting class (put on by the Uniiverse CEO no less), a ride share from Berkeley to LA, an invitation to the city-wide pillow fight (free of charge, of course), or hire your personal ping-pong coach.
This Toronto-based startup realizes one of the biggest holes in the Craigslist model is trust. “Would you ever book a babysitter on Craigslist?” asks Uniiverse CEO and President Ben Raffi.
No. Dear God, no.
Uniiverse hopes to make trust a central component to their collaborative marketplace.
“By showing social proximity (e.g. mutual friends, previous interactions), ratings, reviews, and participation across multiple categories and verticals), e.g. if someone is looking to rent your drill, you can get a sense of who they are by seeing that they’ve hosted cooking classes with great reviews, and that they go running with one of your friends,” says Raffi.
Uniiverse realizes it will take more than trust for their service to separate from the pack. Transparency into a user’s history is important too, according to Raffi, “Instead of being anonymous, Uniiverse gives visibility into the person you’ll be interacting with. This is extremely important for activities and services (but less important for buying a product with known specs, such as an iPhone). By contrast, Uniiverse enriches the social experience. It’s a great way to meet new people over a common interest.”
One potential fault with the idea is the lack of clarity for what the service offers. Saying that you’re the “marketplace for collaborative living” might raise more eyebrows than user registrations. When asked why his service was attempting to take on such a wide spectrum of services and activities, Raffi replied, “We’re aiming to unify the currently fragmented sharing economy. The value in the sharing economy is not fully tapped because there’s no transport of trust across verticals and categories.” In other words, in Raffi’s eyes, this is a strength, not a weakness.
Only time will tell if this proves to be the case. Uniiverse is not the first player in this game. In late 2010, Skyara attempted to capture this market by being “a marketplace for experiences.” Due to a lack of traction, however, the Skyara team has closed up shop and is attempting a new approach under the name Ravn. If Skyara’s failure was merely the result of being slightly ahead of its time, Uniiverse could still very well be sitting pretty.
The Uniiverse team is headed by Raffi, Co-CEO and former consultant at Boston Consulting Group Craig Follett , and CTO and former lead developer at Unata Adam Meghji . They raised $750,000 in seed round financing in 2011, and they are actively seeking funding moving forward.
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