Connecting Peer-To-Peer Trades Of Physical Goods Online
Rachel Botsman, author of 'What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,' explores the story of Swap.com.
College friends Greg Boesel and Mark Hexamer started to think about online swap trading in 2004, a time when peer-to-peer precursor sites such as craigslist, Freecycle, and Netflix were taking off. The pair had met while studying for graduate degrees at Boston College and had already created a successful legal software company together. As Hexamer recalls, “The inspiration for their site was really a whole bunch of things, as opposed to one ‘a-ha’ moment.” They began to notice that their nephews played a new $55 video game for a couple of weeks and then got bored with it. Their friends with children would watch videos such as Shrek and The Little Mermaid numerous times but would quickly move on to their next favorite movie. Boesel’s and Hexamer’s mothers would swap books with their friends without thinking about it. And their own shelves were full of DVDs and CDs they would neither watch nor listen to again. The final impetus was when Boesel, like so many readers, devoured The Da Vinci Code in a matter of days. After he turned the last page he wondered, “What do I with this book now?” He did not want to throw it away or go through the hassles of selling it for a few dollars on eBay. Boesel proposed to Hexamer, “Could we create a site that would let people swap any product for the same value as what they’re offering?”