Online classifieds have been stuck in the past for years now (see Craigslist and Leboncoin), and even though plenty of companies are trying hard (see Oodle and OLX), innovation in the space really seems to be lagging.
So the first thing you notice when you go to Krrb.com is that it looks like something new. That’s not an accident. Krrb is an in-house project of NYC/Paris design shop, Area 17, whose work here in France includes the websites of i>Tele and Canal+, among many others. And as companies like Airbnb (whose new Paris office we showcased here yesterday) have shown, design can be the killer app that could potentially slay a giant like Craigslist.
Krrb founder George Eid, formerly a New Yorker, is head of Area 17’s Paris office. “Craigslist felt like selling goods in a seedy back alley,” he says. Krrb begins with the hyperlocal — or what is also called your neighborhood. The site eschews categories in favor of proximity, so browsing through items is like taking a walk through a flea market, but without all the shouting and unfortunate odors. You see something that you like, and you know you’re only a couple minutes away from where you can get it.
Eid travels back to New York every month or two, so “local” changes for him quite often, as it does for many of us. But what is important about local, he reasons, isn’t so much the proximity as it is the boutique shops, the artisans, and the second-hand sellers. “You don’t go to London and buy something from the nearest H&M,” he explains. “There’s no place online to buy locally when you’re not local.”
And in each community, users are making Krrb in their own flavor. In Brooklyn, small hand-made producers are selling their products to their neighbors. In Milwaukee, for instance, users are searching most for “vintage” items (ironic Midwestern t-shirts, anyone?). And here in Paris, the most popular item sold on Krrb is… shoes.
Future shopping in the capital of fashion
Paris is Krrb’s second most-popular city behind New York, and the site has only just launched in French. They plan to hire a community manager to engage artisan and second-hand sellers, like they did in New York. “We’re a bootstrapped organization with a seemingly insurmountable marketing challenge before us,” Eid says. “We want to be to second-hand shopping what Etsy is to handmade.”
And he thinks Paris is quickly picking up on trends, design and otherwise. “I think, because of history, things move more slowly here. But when the French decide to innovate, they really leapfrog.”
As the pret-a-porter Fashion Week kicks off today in Paris, it’s worth noting that the French market seems as good as any for a beautifully designed website that brings the high-touch environment of a boutique to online transactions. Toppling Craigslist will be a tough task, especially for a startup that resides within a design agency, but Krrb might be the perfect Parisian alternative to making the trek to Les Puces (the famous flea market at Porte de Clingancourt).
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