This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Retail series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and retail.
In this interview we speak with Gee Chuang, CEO and co-founder of Listia, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the retail business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Listia? Why and how did you begin?
GC: Listia is a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling used goods. We started Listia back in 2009 as a Y Combinator company. Initially, we were just trying to solve a problem we were experiencing in our own lives. The clutter and amount of unused stuff in our homes was growing very quickly and, besides simply throwing everything away, we weren't sure how to easily deal with it all. At the time, my co-founder James was trying to give away a pair of snowboard boots he didn't need anymore, but it was actually quite difficult and frustrating to use existing marketplaces like Craigslist. After creating a free listing, he would get bombarded by emails asking about the items. Although these marketplaces are great for many things, we set out to build a better way to deal with all the things you bought and used a couple times, but no longer need. So, we started building Listia as an easy, fun, and most importantly safe community that helps people unlock the value stored in their unused goods by trading them for free with other community members.
2. Please describe your use case and how your company uses blockchain:
GC: Last year we used our experiences running Listia to create Ink Protocol as a way to help marketplaces leverage blockchain technology to create a better experience for users. Ink Protocol provides the essential components of every peer-to-peer marketplace transaction – it handles the reputation system, the transaction escrow, and optional dispute resolution in case of a disagreement. In our experience, this is all you need to transact with someone in a secure way online or in person.
The most unique feature of Ink Protocol is the decentralized, blockchain based reputation system. Seller reputation is the most important factor that buyers consider when shopping on marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy. Many buyers will even pay a premium for the same item from a more reputable seller, rather than taking a risk with a seller with no reputation. However, current marketplace know how important seller reputation is, so they own all your data and use it to lock sellers into their platform, while charging high transaction fees.
We believe the idea of decentralized, self-sovereign reputation solves this by helping buyers and sellers maintain full control over their own reputation. Sellers can use and build up rep no matter where they are selling. Buyers will still have control over the content of the feedback rating and feedback is only ever tied to a verified transaction.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
GC: Ink Protocol is now built into another one of our marketplace products, called Replin. Replin is a decentralized marketplace and seller reputation app that helps people buy and sell anywhere, without any marketplace fees. Sellers can earn and take their reputation wherever they go and also build up a personalized online storefront.
Recently, we have seen some great uses cases grow out of this. One freelance photographer has been using Replin as a way to not only receive payment from clients, but also build up and showcase their reputation to all new perspective clients. This is a great way to remove reliance on services such as Yelp.
Other users are building up their reputation and even creating free marketplace storefronts to sell sports cards and memorabilia on Twitter. Traditionally, it is quite hard to buy and sell on social platforms, but by leveraging Ink Protocol, Replin enables sellers to transact in a fully decentralized way. This means, eventually people will be able to transact anywhere online, and not just on full featured marketplace services.
4. What other blockchain use cases in the retail industry are you excited about?
GC: We are excited about several applications of blockchain in the retail industry, for example:
- Helping to solve the problem of seller reputation and identity, so buyers always know exactly who they are dealing with.
- Solving the problem of supply chain and inventory management by allowing vendors to track goods from the factory to the warehouse.
- Solving the issue of counterfeit goods, since you can verify an items authenticity on the blockchain.
- Providing much faster and cheaper payments using cryptocurrencies.
- Allowing for cross-border payments via cryptocurrencies.
- Providing decentralized escrow and dispute resolution between buyers and sellers.
5. Where will Listia be in 5 years?
GC: Several years from now, I believe Listia will evolve into a fully decentralized marketplace where people can transact freely and without censorship or high marketplace fees. Listia will include a suite of marketplace products that allow you to buy and sell on any platform, and not just Listia itself. We are very excited about the future of blockchain in retail and e-commerce and believe that ultimately the ecosystem will be much better off once the power returns back to the sellers and vendors that are providing the products.