Thursday, July 24, 2014
Structured Domains: Making Everyone A Peer-To-Peer Marketplace
It's a new world out there, with dozens of industries being disrupted by the whole idea of peer-to-peer marketplaces by such companies as Airbnb, Uber, HomeAway, and Relayrides. However, building a marketplace had--until now--been fairly difficult. A new, Austin startup--Structured Domains (www.structuredomains.com)--headed by Dennis Lastochkin, is hoping to change that by allowing almost anyone to create their own marketplace, without having to invest in the engineering and software currently required to get your own marketplace up and running. We spoke with Dennis about the company and what it's doing:
Talk about Structured Domains and what you're doing?
Dennis Lastochkin: We just launched our platform, after working on it for two years. We're two guys, both software developers, and working crazy hours for the last two years. We finally launched it a couple of days ago. We already have developed our own marketplaces using the software. The basic idea is that marketplaces like Airbnb, RelayRides, and all sorts of other marketplaces are becoming very popular. The idea was to build a platform, like Wordpress, but for marketplaces. As you know, Wordpress is designed for blogs, but there isn't any similar software for marketplaces. We've already used the software to create a marketplace for tennis instructors, tennis clubs, and tennis camps for your child. Right now, you have to use Gogle and look for tennis camps in Texas and Austin, and that gets pretty tedious, and this marketplace makes it easy. We also opened up another marketplace, for Hawaiian activities, like scuba, skydiving, surfing, or paddle boarding. We also opened up a new marketplace for childcare providers in Texas. There are 6,000 providers of child care in Texas, and finding a child care center is quite hard.
What's your background?
Dennis Lastochkin I graduated from UT Austin about fourteen years ago, and have been living in Hyde Park. Beforehand, I had been working as a CTO for a company here in Austin, working on domain parking systems and automated domain appraisal systems. I wasn't the owner of that company--I had just been hired as the CTO. Then, in 2000, I left with another programmer to start our own programming company.
What prompted you to create the software?
Dennis Lastochkin: We noticed that there were a lot of payment systems companies coming up, like Stripe, Balance Payments, and more--all of which said they were geared towards marketplaces, to be able to charge credit cards, hold payments in escrow, and so forth. There were both advertising and payment systems geared towards marketplaces. However, we realized that if you wanted to create a marketplace itself, you had to hire a whole host of developers, build different databases, and build all the interfaces for that marketplace. There was no platform to allow you to build a marketplace easily. We figured out, the reasons is it's really hard. Different marketplaces all have different set of properties. For example, if you're running a marketplace for fishing in Ontario, there are lots of properties specific to that category. If you're doing a marketplace for tennis, that's a different set of properties. Moreover, those properties are connected. For example, tennis courts might be connected to specific tennis programs, different lakes might be connected to different fishing lodges. It's all very complex. The breakthrough we had, was to make it easy to abstract a lot of this into different structures, and connect those structures in a relationship. That system allows you to handle all of that complexity, and build your marketplace fairly quickly.
Do people purchase the software, or is this a subscription?
Dennis Lastochkin: This lives in the cloud as software-as-a-service. It's subscription based, plus revenue share. It depends on what you are doing. This is all fairly new, and right now it's a monthly subscription plus some percentage of revenue, so we can handle merchant accounts and payment processing, and other things like that. However, we're still figuring this out, because there's nothing out there online which lets you build marketplaces like we do. It's a new area, so we don't have any competition to compare it to.
Finally, how is the company funded and backed?
Dennis Lastochkin We developed this bootstrapped. We're already profitable, and we're making $3000 to $4000 month from our marketplaces. That's just enough to pay our mortgage, and more or less survive without going bankrupt. But, we definitely want to expand and partner with people with marketing experience, and explore and try to grow this like any other startup.
Thanks, and good luck!