Social Commerce Panel Talk from Play Conference 2013

I was organizing my notes on interesting events I attended, and found this on social commerce topic. It’s from Play Conference 2013, and still looks interesting, so I decided to put it in my blog. It’s more of notes recording questions from the host, and interesting opinions from the panelists, rather than my own thoughts.

Joe Zadeh (Airbnb) — J
Woody Hartman (Lyft) — W
Mitchel Harad (Lending Club) — M
Victor Echevarria (Task Rabbit) — V

Q: What is the most important thing in this marketplace?

J: Technology. People want to own experience, they can rent and experience (e.g. stay in someone’s house from Airbnb), but not necessarily own the mass production (e.g. buy a house). It’s getting more personal.
W: Less cookie cutter, less commercial. Create a community and let them share experiences among themselves.
V: Trust & safe. Give opportunities to people who want a change (e.g. from unemployed).

Q: How can you get the first hundred people into the market?

W: Not easy for Lyft. When Lyft is trying to launch in a new city, need to get supply first — to get founding drivers, create a community, inspire them, train them, let them evangelize and spread words to friends, who can potentially become drivers and passengers. It’s important to build trust and get the momentum going. It’s also important to have an eye-catching pink mustache, as a sign, people remember it.
V: Demystify the experience. TastRabbit focuses on local market. Initially, find high quality people to build trust. These people create stories that will be associated with the company.
J: Go to where the customer are. Spend time on your first customers. You can have a hundred customers that love you, a thousand of customers kind of like you.
M: Lending Club has the slogan “lend your money to strangers on the Internet”. Be prepared to spend dollars out of the pocket at the beginning, and set really high bar and maintain quality.

Q: How to build trust?

V: Convince your customers. Use storytelling.
W: For Lyft, safety is at the top, for example: 1. how to ensure very first ride is trustworthy and safe; 2. how to ensure the community is safe. One solution is that Lyft uses two-way review: let drivers and passengers review each other. Also, for drivers, have strict screening, interview, DMV record reviews, and identity validation via Facebook, etc.
J: Promote trust in multiple angles and build it over time. For example, insurance for house owner starts from 500,000 and gradually rises to 1 million.
M: Provide extreme level of transparency.

Q: What are some challenges when you build the business?

V: Get it to the mass, get more TaskRabbits. Comply with laws, such as healthcare. Keep in mind that new rules coming. Look at cost/benefits of every decision.
M: Having marketing, business and lawyers work together. Remember to make the goal clear and find a solution.
W: We all try to do something new. Providing things that consumers want, and maintain the service quality is hard. Making the customers feel like being part of the club, really belong to something.
J: Gathering hosts, cultivating them and connecting people.

Q: What are your technology focuses?

M (Lending Club): Improve efficiency.
J (Airbnb): Mobilize and internationalize (while make customers feel local)
W (Lyft): Simplify the process, make people love using the simple app
V (TaskRabbit): Search matching, make tasks more visible to customers

Q: Any advice for new entrepreneurs who start in new marketplace?

V: Prepare for the long run, be ready to live a poor lifestyle until you find the point.
W: Build markets overtime.
J: Leverage And connect with customers.
M: First few customers is key.

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