Things are cooking in far-away Chile. Matthew Holinaty and Andrés Alemparte noticed something on e-commerce classifieds others would write off as a piffling practice. Anybody looking for anything was first concerned about finding the item, then negotiating a price. It had struck them -- something fairly simple borne out of a casual observation. What if we stepped back into the cultural sands of time and borrow an idea that dates back to the times before written history -- from Mesopotamia to the Phoenicians and the Romans to inconspicuous trading communities today?
Two years ago, they put their heads together to begin Truequers, an online bartering community. Here’s their unique story of bringing this ancient and historically significant exchange to the digital forefront:
[YS] What is your motivation to create Truequers?
[M/A] We realized there are many people who need to buy products or services, but don’t have the money. That’s why they offer things that they already have. The problem is that it is very difficult to find a person who needs what you offer and may have what you need. That’s why Truequres.com has an automatic matching system. This way, we encourage saving, reusing things in a sustainable way.
[YS] How does Truequers function, and what kind of features can people expect from it?
[M/A] Truequers.com creates automatic matches between items based on what the user is looking for in exchange. As in the real world a friend would say who’d want your product or service. These matches also combine information like market value, location and other criteria, enhancing the user experience and boosting the amount of exchanges.
This way, we create real value for our customers, giving them a smart platform and social network that follows their money-free green lifestyle.
Truequers.com has also considered B2B bartering, offering companies a specially designed corporate platform.
As a social network, Truequers.com seeks to deliver relevant information regarding economical and environment consciousness to its users. We generate value through partnerships with sponsors and advertisers and other B2B relationships.
[YS] What is your financial backing like?
[M/A] At the beginning we invested personal money, and now we have an angel investor. We started on barely 40K, and are now seeking for new investors to expand to new countries.
[YS] At this point, do you have any competition?
[M/A] There are some websites for bartering, but they don’t have the technology creating automatic matches between items based on what the user is looking for in exchange. Also, all the e-commerce business can be our potential competitors, so in some way we consider Amazon, Ebay or Craiglist as competitors too, though only Truequers.com is optimized for bartering.
[YS] Why do you feel a bartering-based platform will attract customers and investors?
[M/A] Customers, because they can give away all the things that they don’t use, and get what they really want without spending money.
Investors, because this is a global trend that, every day, is getting bigger and bigger. The collaborative consumption system is growing each day, and in the consumption world that we are, this seems to be the future of global business.
[YS] What's the biggest milestone you have achieved so far?
[M/A] In less than 2 months from launching we have more than 5,000 users, 3,000 products, this, considering that Chile is a very small market. We already have more than 200k page views each month, and rank at the top in Google for bartering in the region.
[YS] Are there any new features you plan on adding?
[M/A] Yes, we are now adding several improvements to the site, such as our mobile app, interest groups, regional groups, and so much more.
[YS] How do you feel about the startup environment in your country?
[M/A] I think it has been great. The Chilean Government, in order to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs to start their business in Chile, has created a special program to help with economic resources and workplace for best startup entities. Many incubators have been developed, promoting good ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. Though they lack risk-taking, and most of the funders expect short term monetization.
[YS] How do plan to market yourself, attract customers and build a strategy to sell your product? Are you looking at a global customer base?
[M/A] Yes, Truequers.com is going word-wide soon. Our main strategy is catching early adopters on actual e-commerce sites through data scraping and strong referrals technology built into our product. We’re also creating many benefits for users, offering sponsored giveaways and discounts on the site to attract new users.
[YS] What do you feel is the biggest risk involved right now?
[M/A] In few words: Amazon or Ebay developing a bartering category.
[YS] What do you predict for the future of Truequers?
[M/A] It’s very difficult to predict on tech startups, though we can share our plans. We are consolidating our product now in Chile, and during 2014 we will launch the service in México, Argentina, Spain and other Spanish speaking countries where bartering is a strong activity. Starting 2015, we will launch Truequers.com
in English for the North American market. We expect to catch all the early adopters we can from mercadolibre.com and craigslist.com. This way we hope we can reach 1 million users at the short term. The data we manage indicates that we can reach at least 90 million users long-term worldwide.
Very few ideas truly get ravaged by the gust of time. In the last places you’d least suspect, interesting narratives piece themselves together with borrowed threads from history. Truequers aims to efficiently fill a gap that’s been neglected for a while, as they go back to the simple economics of exchange between simple people in need.