Starting a marketplace?

(Andrew Chen) #1

Continuing the discussion from Introduce yourself! What are you working on these days?:

this is a cool product! Would love to hear from you (and others) on how you bootstrapped the marketplace in the early days. It can be super hard to get buyers and sellers together in one place, and would love to hear any anecdotes on how it first started. Was it bootstrapped off Craigslist in any way?

(andy) #2

Here at Segment we put a lot of thought into how to grow a marketplace. Segment is one API that collects customer tracking data and sends to over 160+ tools (analytics, email, marketing automation, CRMs, even databases like Redshift).

At the very beginning, we built out the integrations from our API to the end tools (since no one cared about us). Since at that time there was no “marketplace”, we had to heavily subsidize one side (integrations) to appeal to the other side (customers).

We’ve grown to the point where now there are many customers, when approached by tool X, will ask them to join Segment in order to win their business. Moreover, our integration partners now are a growing source of leads/business (better have us “own”/maintain the libraries on the collection side, plus its easy access to all of our customer base).

We modeled out the “growth loop” for two sided market places here:

Hope that helps! Happy to answer any further questions, too.

(Alex Tapper) #3

Hey @andrewchen, reviving this old post from a search for “marketplaces”

We bootstrapped our marketplace, Sixty, via the agency method. Here was our path:

  1. Operated as an agency building Squarespace sites.
  2. Became a Squarespace Specialist (i.e. we joined their partner program as a supplier).
  3. Found our niche: quick help (15min-2hrs) over screen-share.
  4. Built platform MVP with Squarespace, Acuity Scheduling, Zapier as a backend, Google Sheets as a database.
  5. Recruited other Squarespace Specialists to join platform offering “zero admin, immediate payouts, and lead gen.”
  6. Built platform v1 on Bubble with lots and lots of Zaps and jerry-rigged APIs. Still serving just Squarespace community. Quickly became the largest collection of Squarespace experts outside their directory. Still worked as suppliers in our marketplace to help fund development.
  7. Grew 50% MoM for 9 months, broke our “tech” stack, brought on CTO to rebuild on rails with the capability to expand to serve more apps.
  8. Adapted model to a 3-sided marketplace by working with SaaS companies. We help them build a Partner Program as a service: we recruit & vet experts, power the software as a subdomain on their site, and host the transactions between freelancers & their users.

For us, the key to getting critical mass was limiting ourselves to Squarespace initially and specifically focusing on small tasks that no other top freelancers wanted to do. We built a name for this within that community and referrals drive >30% of our new business. Growth to related apps was organic (our users were already using them) and it gave us the deep knowledge of working in a partner program that we needed to then build them for other companies.