Swap.com: an eBay for Sharing

Finding a new home for unwanted media reveals a significant sharing inefficiency. Anyone who has urgently foisted unwanted books or CD's on reluctant friends prior to a cross-country move is familiar with the problem. But even if you're not rushing to get out of Dodge, it can be tough to find a home for the unwanted items you own. Swap.com endeavors to solve this sharing problem, connecting people who have unwanted books, music, movies and games with folks who want them, for a nominal transaction and shipping fee. Like an almost-free eBay for media, Swap.com provides an efficient tool for collaborative consumption. Swap.com CEO Jeff Bennett spoke with Shareable about the service, and its role in the larger movement.

How did you get engaged in the collaborative consumption movement?

I have a track record building and scaling marketplaces, and I was drawn to the Swap space as I felt it was such a natural behavior, yet there was no marketplace to support it. I could see there was a tremendous amount of offline activity already going on, and recognized that were growth opportunities both online and offline. I could also see the drivers for a larger movement as we move into an era of more mindful consumption.  

How does Swap.com work?

Swap.com enables its 1 million members to swap items they already have for items they want. The site is extremely easy to use, and anyone can register for free to set up a “have” list and a “want” list. Then, the site’s two- and three-way trade algorithms instantly find all of the items members can receive in exchange for those items they “have.” 

What is Swap.com's role in encouraging collaborative consumption, and how does the company give back to and help the larger cultural trend?

By enabling swaps, our community is helping to conserve the planet. In 2010 alone members have reduced their carbon footprint by 10.2 million pounds by reducing the consumption of new resources. In addition, we are about to launch "Swap.com for schools," a charitable initiative that seeks to help teachers and schools acquire books needed for their students from the Swap.com community. At Swap.com, we truly want to change the world, and we are offering our platform and collaborating with our community to make this a reality. 

Where do you see Swap.com in five years? How about collaborative consumption?

Our goal is for Swap.com to become the eBay of Swap and we’re working to create the world’s largest community of swappers. We believe that collaborative consumption is here to stay as we all rationalize the realities of the new global economy.  

What advice would you offer to other socially-minded entrepreneurs interested in collaborative consumption?

I would say that the cause is very worthy and the tasks at hand are enormous. I would welcome their entrance into this growing market.  

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