Two Santa Barbara entrepreneurs are looking to capitalize on the oldest form of business through a modern platform. YesPLZ! is an online bartering service for local service providers.
Users log in through Facebook to seek or offer among 30 different services, such as massage, writing, auto repair, Web design and plumbing.
“It’s hyperlocal; we focus on specific categories within a small radius,” co-founder Mike Ray said. “Barter is the oldest form of economy, but people get lost with an infinite amount of trades possible (on other sites).”
Ray owned a transportation business called Super Ride in Goleta. When he didn’t have the capital to pay for advertising, he and co-founder James Crane-Baker thought there had to be an easier way to trade their time.
“Santa Barbara has a high cost of living, and it’s tough to get jobs,” Crane-Baker said. “We live in a paradise and no one wants to travel very far.
“Specifically, the service provider is a squeezed profession because they are trying to make a living and stay competitive in a tough market. We are trying to help their pocketbooks and expand local business.”
Crane-Baker started and recently sold a South American Web site that was similar to Craigslist.
Simplicity and a narrow-minded approach are the keys to the “new breed” of barter sites, Crane-Baker said. YesPLZ! strives to eliminate spammers and fraud through a Facebook login and its virtually text-free platform. Users also receive an alert when someone joins who matches their trade profile.
“Craigslist is on a downward spiral,” Ray said. “They haven’t updated their product in forever, and people are picking them apart — such as Airbnb.com that focuses on rooms for rent.”
The site eliminates extraneous text such as titles and descriptions to make the site easily navigable, Crane-Baker said. Users can leave comments on traders through Facebook or direct messaging and can expand their market using Twitter.
“The idea is that we all agree that this gray market exists,” Crane-Baker said. “What we’re trying to see is if we can transfer gray market onto the Internet and help service providers broaden their market.”
It’s the age of the startup, he said.
“Craigslist is dying a death of 1,000 cuts,” Crane-Baker said. “Startups have taken each one of Craigslist’s sub categories and made it their market.”