Eric Koester

A few years ago at a tech event in Seattle, Zaarly co-founder Eric Koester used his company’s new service to have a six-pack of beer delivered to the stage for the panel he was sitting on.

That won’t be happening again. Zaarly has shut down its marketplace that allowed buyers to request services from those in a local area — including Seattle, New York, San Francisco and other cities. TechCrunch has a detailed report on the changes, noting that the heavily-funded Silicon Valley company will now focus exclusively on operating merchant Web sites. (We first wrote about that new direction last November).

In addition to the news of Zaarly switching gears to focus on merchant storefronts, Koester announced that he’s leaving the company. In a heartfelt blog post, Koester said that the decision was tough and he lays out some of the challenges of moving on from a company you’ve co-founded.

Koester, a former Seattle attorney who helped create Zaarly at a Startup Weekend event in LA, writes:

“As you move from a company where “it’s your entire world” to “it’s not your world anymore, but something that still defines you from the outsiders view,” it becomes a delicate dance. You want to continue to cheerlead and champion from afar once you’ve gone, but all the while you know you need to let those you’ve entrusted with your baby thrive. I’ve personally learned that moving on as a founder isn’t as natural as packing up your boxes, forwarding your email and changing your LinkedIn bio.”

He concludes:

I’m excited about the next journey ahead – if I meet 1/10th of the amazing people I’ve engaged with during the last two years of Zaarly, I’m in line for a pretty cool experience. Love meeting people, stimulating my brain and finding something inspiring to try and solve.

Startups are hard. Moving on is hard. In both cases, it’s the people that make them so. Maybe that means you are doing something right if you’re surrounded by people who make your life so amazing, it’s hard.

Shortly after that the beer stunt, Zaarly raised $14.1 million in funding from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sands Capital Ventures, CMEA, Venture51, Crunchfund, actor Ashton Kutcher and others. The new direction puts Zaarly more in line with services like Seattle startup Bonanza and eBay. Interestingly, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman serves on the board of Zaarly, and at the time of her appointment in 2011 noted that “mobile, local marketplaces will shift how people buy and sell goods, services, and experiences.”

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

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  • Bill

    Seems smart for Zaarly to change its model. I never understood how the original business model ever could lead to a business. Good luck to Eric. Hopefully he can get a win under his belt at some point.

  • Byron

    Zaarly’s failure is not a surprise. The only question was when. It’s interesting that Bo Fishback denied it not very long ago and now he doesn’t want people calling it a pivot. He should — the alternative word is failure, plain and simple. If they hadn’t pulled in $14M for an unworkable business, they’d be completely dead.

    As for Koester, I suspect he was in over his head. He jumped from being a lawyer to being a business guy and then he jumped again before he’d learned enough. Best of luck to him in the future.

  • http://twitter.com/erickoester Eric Koester

    Thanks for the article John. It’s always challenging to leave a startup you co-found, but made easier when you leave it in good hands. And for Zaarly choosing to focus on what is working in places like Seattle, SF and KC is sometimes difficult, but turns out listening to the customers (our buyers and sellers) made this one pretty obvious. 2013 should be a fun and exciting year for Zaarly.

    And it’ll be an exciting year for me too as I’ve found a new startup challenge to tackle that won’t involve 85% of my time living in SF away from my wife! Thanks for the ongoing support of Geekwire and the Seattle community.

  • Erasmus

    Another move for Koester – hopefully he’ll hit the market just right this time. He brings a lot of energy and networking skills to his role; investors should not view him as radioactive. I wonder if a venture with more of a proprietary tech backbone might be a better fit for Eric?

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