Zaarly looks to take on Craigslist, with help from LeVar Burton and Ashton Kutcher

Kutcher (Wikipedia photo)

Need a plumber, a DJ or a chainsaw carving of a bear? Welcome to Zaarly. Born at Startup Weekend in L.A., Zaarly today is launching what it dubs a “location-based, real-time commerce platform.” Essentially, it is an online marketplace for goods and services, kind of like Craigslist or eBay.

The service will initially be available in seven cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, New York and L.A.

“Now, whether you are buying groceries, need to find a caterer, want a ticket to a sold-out playoff game or are looking to borrow a flatbed truck for the day, you can use Zaarly to find out if someone close by has what you’re looking for,” explained CEO Bo Fishback.

Zaarly has ties to Seattle, with a number of its employees based here. Its COO is Eric Koester — the former Seattle startup attorney who just testified in front of Congress about how to remove friction points for startups.

In fact, Zaarly is about removing friction points related to local commerce.

The service works like this:

You post what your looking for — say tickets to an upcoming Sounders match —  and how much you are willing to pay for it. Zaarly then takes that request, and shares it with the community of users. Buyers and sellers than can correspond either via anonymous messages or phone in order to complete the transaction.

It’s closest rival is Craigslist, though Zaarly boasts deeper mobile integration, certainly a snazzier design and deep integration with Facebook and Twitter.

Zaarly, like any online marketplace, faces a chicken and egg problem. After all, it is only valuable if you can actually find what you need. (This is one of the huge advantages of Craigslist by the way).

I just gave it a try, and only three Zaarly offerings were available for Seattle. (A rideshare, a dual core laptop and someone who wanted to pay $50 for Medifast Food).

But the company does have a secret weapon in its corner when it comes to getting the word out: Ashton Kutcher. The star of That 70s Show is an investor in the company, and at last count had more than 6.7 million Twitter followers.

A few properly timed Tweets from Mr. Kutcher, and Zaarly could start to gain some momentum. And, if that doesn’t work, there’s always LeVar Burton. The actor, known for his roles in Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a board member. He boasts 1.6 million Twitter followers.

Previously on GeekWire: Seattle techie goes to L.A., returns with Ashton Kutcher-backed startup Zaarly

  • http://www.JakeMilla.com Jacob MIlla

     Zaarly is a fantastic startup! Wish them luck

  • http://twitter.com/RedRussak Joshua ‘Red’ Russak

    I’ve been working with them on their “Dream Team” for over a month and their marketing efforts are insane. They have teams all around the country already completing orders, EVEN BEFORE THE APP WAS BUILT. Talk about “minimum viable product”. They are doing everything right and I just got the App. Very cool.

    PS: I’m writing this on my flight to NYC. Never used wifi on a plane before. /strange

  • http://twitter.com/jeremypotvin Jeremy Potvin

    Love the idea, but how do they monetize this? If it is free to join, free to list, free to browse, and they don’t control the end transaction… where is the money for Zaarly??

  • http://www.compassionateactionnetwork.com dakini_3

    NICE! … Great to see this!

  • simchabe

    Really excited about Zaarly. Know they will do good things. 

  • Liz@piecesofthere.com

    I question if deeper mobile integration, certainly a snazzier design and deep integration with Facebook and Twitter are enough to move people from Craigslist to a new site? Is there a secret as to why investors think a site that is (conceptually) solving the same problem in basically the same fundamental way as a huge player like Craigslist is a valid startup?