Glyde Debuts New Online Marketplace. E-Commerce 2.0?

Posted by: Rob Hof on November 16, 2009

You wouldn’t think the world would need another place for people to buy and sell used media such as DVDs, books, video games, and CDs. eBay and Amazon.com, along with innumerable smaller e-commerce Web sites, dominate a multibillion-dollar market that obviously provides a satisfactory experience for a great many people.
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Glyde, a startup created by former eBay Motors founder and chief Simon Rothman, is betting there’s plenty of room left for newcomers that can make the whole buying and selling process much faster and easier. On Nov. 16, the Palo Alto-based company is debuting the site, which it promises will provide single-click purchasing for buyers (after the first one, during which you have to fill in your credit-card and shipping information) and 10-second item listing for sellers.

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Rothman landed on the idea after leaving eBay in 2005 and "decompressing" in his native Ohio, where he discovered many people--real people in the middle of the country, outside Silicon Valley's reality distortion field--not only didn't sell or even buy online but had no desire to do so. Too much hassle, too much time, too little trust, he found.

Yet he estimates that some $300 billion worth of unused media products are collecting dust on people's shelves, or $3,000 per U.S. household. "E-commerce doesn't seem to work for real people," he says. At the same time, he adds, while other kinds of Web sites such as social networking have evolved, "e-commerce hasn't really changed materially."

Rothman and his team, which includes Chief Technology Officer Mark Wong-VanHaren, a onetime cofounder of Excite and former Charles River Ventures partner, essentially have rethought the entire online buying and selling process to painstakingly reduce the friction throughout. They've designed their own search engine, payment system, pricing algorithms, shipping system (sellers receive a branded envelope for shipping), and more.

Indeed, in an era when Web companies toss out beta sites in a matter of months, the three-year-old company is a bit of a throwback. It has operated in secret--not even a mention on TechCrunch!--even since Glyde built the first version more than a year ago. It has been testing it ever since with an increasing number of family, friends, and friends of friends.

Glyde, which has 15 employees, got $6 million in 2007 in a Series A funding round led by Charles River Ventures. "Every layer of what they've built is changing the game," says Charles River partner Bill Tai.

After checking it out, including buying an item (which won't be delivered until Nov. 20), it's clear that the Glyde team put great care into the experience. It's a clean, uncluttered design, and the experience is indeed fast and easy.

I can't speak for the selling process yet. But a demonstration indicated it was much faster, as little as a few seconds. On eBay, it can take upwards of a half-hour, though to give eBay its due, that's because it does offer a lot more options thanks to its much larger product base. (Its Half.com unit that deals in used media is much closer to what Glyde's doing.) Glyde has no plans to compete in collectibles because it's impossible to standardize the data and selling processes for them. Most media products have data, images, and pricing information available to be aggregated.

Glyde charges sellers a 10% item when an item sells, with no upfront fees. The seller also pays $1.25 for the mailing envelope. Sellers are expected to ship items within one day.

Another interesting wrinkle is that Glyde isn't depending on eBay-style feedback from buyers to assess the quality of sellers. It can track whether the seller actually did ship on time, for example, and its algorithms can favor faster shippers in product listings.

The company has filed for a number of patents on various of its features and processes. So while its buying and selling processes look easy, Glyde is attempting to stake claims on them to build up a competitive advantage.

Whether all that's enough to attract people who don't buy much online, and the many more who never sell anything online, is hard to predict. Amazon's success has proved that reducing friction in the buying process works, and eBay (and more recently Amazon as well) helped many thousands of people sell things online much more easily.

Even with considerable improvements in the buying and selling processes, Glyde has a big job ahead first convincing people it's better enough to give it a try. And if it does get some traction, it must scale up the business on many fronts that have tripped up others in the past, from trust issues to payment processing. Still, it's one of the most interesting attempts in years to attempt to take e-commerce to the next level.

Reader Comments

Nate R

November 16, 2009 12:39 PM

Article says, "Sellers are expected to ship items within one day."

I guess this is one day after the envelope arrives in the mail that you are supposed to use to send the item?

To get paid the buyer has to check that they received the item. You are trusting that the seller is going to go in and check the item as received. They have already paid. What motivates them to go in and do this? I will grant you that 80% of people will be concentious and check in the book they get but I think there is going to be 20% that you will really have to prod. For sellers it is not reassuring to think that you are going to have a problem getting paid in 1/5 of your transactions.

Steven Kane

November 16, 2009 6:04 PM

How is this different from the initial business/model that was launched and later abandoned by Lala.com?

yusley

November 17, 2009 1:10 AM

Whats great with this model ? It is old and i dont trust the concept. 10% !!! isnt that too much ...

Peter

November 17, 2009 1:53 PM

We're a major online 'used media' seller and tested both the selling and buying ends of Glyde.com.

They were both very disappointing.

There is a need in the market for a 'media marketplace' but this ain't it.

The creators do not understand how media buyers buy nor how media sellers sell.

There is no hierarchical navigation, barely any structured and zero unstructured text navigation.

The liberal return policy is not compatible with the high risk of copying or use by buyers before returning.

The flash display interface is extremely slow and cannot compeet with any other e-commerce site in speed.

Not all major media are represented (I miss at least posters, music sheets, magazines and newspapers).

The condition grading they apply is totally random, no industry standard, not well documented, which will cause many buyer/seller disputes and disappointments and it is not very finely grained, like is customary in used media. Glyde.com's 'condition grading' seems to be quickly put together more as an afterthought.

In general the site creators do not seem to understand their specific products nor their market. They seem to be treating the non-material products which is what media content represents, the same as the material ones like cars or clothes, while both types differ considerably as one (media) relies heavily on text description to be sold and teh other does not.

As to Glyde.com's claims to patents, those patent applications are laughable. Many companies already have similar processes and methods and they often did not claim them as their own. What is next? A software developer who will claim a patent for adding 1 + 1 and getting 2 as the result?

My final conclusion is that glyde.com has some interesting possible minor innovations like the prepaid mailer combined with the escrow of payments, but I doubt those 'gadgets' are that unique as selling propositions that they are going to propel them forward as a major player in the crowd of marketlaces.

It seems that a brain washed ex-Ebay executive is still believing here (the Ebay mantra) that all it requires to sell well online is to take away the possibility of conflicts between buyers and sellers and then all will be hunky-dory. The premise there is of course that such conflicts are that important and that buyers need to be protected against their own lack of taking personal responsibility. This mania of 'disagreement prevention', wghich si based on an adversarial view of trading, takes away from the necessary focus to simply provide great products and great services to sellers and buyesr alike and let them choose how they handle them.

The truth is that most successful sites let buyers and sellers handle most steps of the process themselves and much better long term business relationships are created that way. Good sellers are thus matched with good buyers and lesser sellers are matched with lesser buyers and all win.

No, we do not need an Ebay 3.0 version, like Glyde.com seems to aspire to be. Buyers and sellers need marketplaces where they can be unshackled again, can take their own responsibility in trading and where site owners only provide a menu of add-on choices, which use buyers and sellers are free to reject.

Ken

November 18, 2009 2:48 PM

It seems that Glyde is going in the right direction. They are trying to make the process easier and more important trying to find out what the customer needs

Adam

November 18, 2009 4:38 PM

As a user of Glyde.com over the past 2 months, I can honestly say I love the site. I will preface that by saying that the only thing bought or sold was video games, but with each game I got a price from Gamestop on trade credit and always ended up better off by selling on Glyde.com. As far as video games go, Glyde rocks.

Dan

November 21, 2009 2:39 PM

I've been selling my old video games for the past few months on glyde, and simply put - it's great. I don't have to "think about it" or "deal" like I do with ebay.

I just list my titles, envelopes show up, I slide the game in and voila.

No watching prices, research, no managing, no trips to the post office to get envelopes, weigh stuff, expired auctions, worrying about price, etc.

I don't know how it is for the "power seller or buyer" but for an individual who just wants to unload his stuff/get a good price this is an awesome service.

This works great for low cost, portable items because it makes it "cheap" for me to sell them from a time standpoint - they've removed the post office hassle.

jack

November 25, 2009 7:59 AM

it is not very finely grained, like is customary in used media. Glyde.com's 'condition grading' seems to be quickly put together more as an afterthought.
cellulite treatment

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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