Y Combinator Challenge #25 – Craigslist Competitor

For more information about the Y Combinator Challenge, check out this post first.

25. A Craigslist competitor. Craiglist is ambivalent about being a business. This is both a strength and a weakness. If you focus on the areas where it’s a weakness, you may find there are better ways to solve some of the problems Craigslist solves.

OK, I’ll admit it.  This one had me stumped – and that lame jet lag excuse wasn’t going to work two days in a row.  Lucky for me, I happened to meet a professional idea incubator today on campus, and she was gracious enough to help me out with this one.  So if any of you guys take this idea and make millions from it, you owe both Anne and I a drink the next time you’re in Seattle.  🙂

Beating Craig at his own game is not an easy task.  However, there are few things that could potentially give him a run for his money (or lack thereof).  One issue with Craigslist is the lack of trust.  I mean, there’s really no way of knowing when you go to pick up your slightly-used George Foreman grill from the guy across town if he’s going to answer the door showing off his brand new chainsaw and hockey mask.  Given the choice, I’d rather spend a few extra bucks and buy it from my friend’s co-worker’s sister’s uncle instead.  Or at the very least, from someone who may have the online handle “JasonFri13”, but has a decent rating and several positive reviews from past buyers. 

However, just slapping a social network onto a Craigslist clone and wrapping it with some pretty boxes with rounded corners isn’t going to keep the esteemed Mr. Newmark up at night.  Classified sites, like dating or job sites, face the classic chicken-and-egg problem.  Buyers need sellers, and vice versa.  Luckily, in this market, you’ve actually got a number of well-funded allies with a critical mass of potential users who are desperately trying to solve this exact same problem – the major daily newspaper conglomerates.  To seed this thing, all you’d have to do is partner with the tree killers to offer their customers simultaneous publishing to both the trusted, online site and to the declining-but-still-popular print classifieds.  Slap a social network on that, and now you’re getting somewhere.

Thanks to everyone for the nice welcome back, I kinda thought that maybe y’all would forget about me.  🙂  Any thoughts on this on?  As always, post ’em in the comments below!

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2 responses to “Y Combinator Challenge #25 – Craigslist Competitor

  1. This sounds way too complex. At the end of the day, it will be difficult to knock off craigslist because they are primarily free and the consumers of the product do not have to pay a dime. One of the reasons why plentyoffish was able to gain a foothold because it is free and its competitors are not. While craigslist charges for some of its listings, the users don’t have to pay a dime.

    The issue at hand is that Craigslist works! The knockoffs have to be much more defined and much more niche to make sense. That’s how elance and the others survive for computer related gigs. They solved your issue, on a niche basis.

  2. Hey Mark, good to hear from you again! Appreciate the comments, and agree this is pretty complicated. The niche approach is probably the best. However, I still think that there’s gotta be some way to tie traditional newspaper classifieds into the web, and not just having each newspaper maintain their own weak implementations. It’s like how everyone thought that web video was going to kill traditional TV, and then Hulu came out and just nailed the implementation.

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