Instead of spending hours in line at the mall this holiday season to buy gifts, why not just trade possessions with your Facebook friends? Andy Ruben co-founded Yerdle, a platform that lets people share things with their friends for free. With technology, Ruben hopes he is making it easier to borrow or give to friends than it is to buy from a store.
A sharing economy could disrupt retail, in the same way AirBnB attempts to disrupt the traditional hotel model by connecting people who have empty rooms in their homes with travelers seeking a more intimate, local experience.
Ruben described Yerdle, which launched several weeks ago, as a new kind of marketplace that is focused on making the possessions people have in their closets and garages more accessible. By giving the objects an online identity, Yerdle can give them a longer life as they are passed around from owner to owner. Looking at the Yerdle site on his computer, Ruben showed me how people will share photos to show how the objects are now being used and create a dialogue and connection over the possessions.
The Yerdle team is interesting. Andy Ruben was Walmart's first chief sustainability officer and was in charge of Walmart's integration of e-commerce, where he used social media to improve the quality of private brands and identify problems before they got too large to manage. While there, his sustainability business practices spread throughout the entire company and ended up creating hundreds of millions of dollars in efficiencies, which had a ripple effect on the business plans of 60,000 more suppliers and consumer categories.
Ruben co-founded Yerdle with Carl Tashian from the founding team of Zipcar and Adam Werbach, author of Strategy for Sustainability and former president of the Sierra Club. Ruben believes that if retail is built on a social mission, the impact of the new marketplace will be far greater than what he could have achieved at Walmart.
In general, retail has been changing, with Amazon Prime, free shipping, department store cards, and memberships. "It changed in our generation and moved more toward the customer. It's about helping the customer in what they really need," Ruben said.
Ruben said the inspiration for Yerdle came to him when his daughter went to play soccer and he had to buy shin guards. Shin guards belonging to neighbors were likely sitting in nearby garages. "We will make it easy to find out where those shin guards are," he said.
"It's a marketplace just like eBay," Ruben said. "It starts with things you can get free from your friends and friends of friends. Down the road, if you are looking for shin guards, you can see what friends or friends of friends have them."
The monetary transaction will come later, as the network is built to access things in your Facebook network of friends. The plan is to take a commission on that. Yerdle is available as a Web app and an iPhone app.
So far, there are 1,500 users and Ruben is seeing that people are using it to share and give away a lot of things. Ruben walks the walk, and has put a lot of his garage items up for grabs on Yerdle. Any takers?