I mentioned last week that a new company was about to be unveiled. Craig from the comments list was very close to figuring it out, and as of today, I can give you the whole story. Jittery is a new online auction concept that will compete (sort of) with eBay. Jonathan Ruff, founder of Jittery, and I traded several emails and spoke on the phone several times about this business. I was excited about having a first-hand view of what he was doing, and agreed to blog about it because it could be a very interesting learning experience for readers of this site.
The first thing Jonathan told me about Jittery was the "Buy Offer" feature, which I believe gave him the idea in the first place. Basically, instead of buyers competing over an item and raising the price, buyers specify what they want to buy, which features are important, what prices they want to pay, and sellers compete to give them the best deal. When I heard this, I figured sure, this is a good idea, but eBay will copy it within a few weeks. Then what?Jonathan proceeded to spend the next 2 hours describing to me all the ways that Jittery will out-innovate eBay. The site goes live today (no fee for buyers or sellers through January 1st) so let's take a quick look at some of the other features Jittery has to offer.
Auction Buddies – a built-in messaging network that allows open communication between buyers and sellers.
Cheaper Fees – no listing fee, a 1.5% closing fee with a $30 max (even if you sell your house).
CRM – enables sellers to market to their already exisitng customers, thus making it easy to work with repeat buyers/sellers
Blogpoint – makes it simple for bloggers to be able to display what they have for sale, and enables readers to bid from the blog.
Featured Listings – utilize a cost-per-click structure (if no one clicks, you pay nothing)
Buyer References – provides buyers with a list of the most recent customers that have purchased from a seller, and what iterms were purchased.
Bid by Email – non-members can bid using only an email address, buyers/sellers can disable this feature
Buyer/Seller Research – view or sort the entire transaction history of Jittery to find prices and trends.
Bring Your Reputation – from other sites
Overtime Bidding – if a bid is placed in the last three minutes, the time is reset to three minutes (eliminates bid sniping).
This is interesting stuff that clearly addresses the more common complaints from users of eBay. Of course, several other online auction sites have sprung up that hoped to address some of these issues, and most of them have wilted and died. Jonathan has a tough road ahead, and I don't know if he will succeed, but I admire him for tyring. When Jonathan first told me what he was doing, I thought it was interesting but short-sighted. I asked him a lot of questions about cost structure, sustainable competitive advantage, marketing, and everything else I could think of. He has covered the bases pretty well. But Jonathan is well aware that there has to be a "tipping point" in this venture and that he must attract a certain number of site visitors before he can really play at eBay's level. I wish him the best of luck. Competition will improve the online auction experience for us all.
Jonathan has agreed to an email interview, and I'll be sending him out some questions later this week. If there is something you would like me to ask him, please drop me an email (rob-at-businesspundit-dot-com). I hope you take this opportunity to visit his site, poke around, and see what you think. Now that you know about this from the beginning, you are in the unique position to view his progress over the next year and see what kinds of strategic decisions he makes, how eBay responds (if they do) and what the outcome will be. This is a rare treat. I hope you enjoy it.