This was written last night from 30k feet in the back of a plane coming home from 2 days of meetings in San Francisco and shared with the OpenSky staff. I thought it made sense to publish it to our entire merchant community as well.
The most important message is this: I’m fired the heck up. I’m proud to work with each and everyone of you. I feel lucky that we’re building what we’re building together. Great marketplaces aren’t easy to create and brave and bold teams are even harder to assemble, and I view it as real triumph to be on this team with each of you. And it feels amazing to say this: our marketplace has never been in a better spot with more clear potential for greatness.
To change the world, we have got some awesome things to do. And by Change the World, what do I mean? I envision OpenSky as global — with the world’s most extraordinary goods and the world’s consumers. A global bazaar that is dynamic, friendly, personal and exciting to sell on and awesome to shop. The entire friggin world.
Today OpenSky is a Social Commerce Marketplace. Let me break that down:
Social mean mobile. 75% of Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest usage is on a mobile device. Our mobile usage is now at approximately 58% and growing. With the launch of Android in the next couple of weeks, and our critical improvements to iPhone APP we will be in a strong position to continue to capture the way consumers are increasingly spending all of their time — on their devices, discovering. Our repeat visitors now spend more than 8 minutes per visit, up from 6 minutes in August. Social also means connections and follows. The more follows and connections, the more personal and relevant their discovery of goods.
Commerce means transactions. Merchants thrive when members love, share and buy. Members are happy when they discover and buy extraordinary goods at fair value that arrive quickly and exceed their expectations. By connecting buyers and sellers, and ensuring that their is clear value and trust, goods get bought and sold. This is what it means when we talk about “liquidity” or GMV (gross merchandise value).
Marketplace means we are a platform: the glue that connects sellers and buyers to one another. Buyers mean that sellers are happy. Happy sellers means more sellers (and the beginnings of a tightly-knit seller community). More sellers means more buyers for everyone, and so on. This is why we focus like a laser on growing the number of users and merchants using OpenSky each and every day. This is the lifeblood of OpenSky. Marketplaces are notoriously hard to create and even harder scale. Literally they are the wicked hardest kind of companies to build and not for the faint of heart. Why? Because buyers and sellers need to grow in beautiful and harmonious balance – they need to be loved and needed by each other. But when marketplaces do scale they are incredibly resilient. So how are we doing? The number of active users (the demand side) on OpenSky has grown more than 20% each of the last couple of months. The number of items for sale (the supply side) on OpenSky has grown from 5k items to more than 40,000 items in the last 6 months. Those numbers are great. Feel pride in that. I know that I do.
Now every interaction we have with our merchant community is critical. We need them to know how much we love them and want to help them. They have an infinite number of choices for how and where they merchandise, promote, and sell their goods. If they are empowered and engaged on OpenSky, we can grow. The same is true for consumers. Consumers can shop anywhere. We need them to love their experience and their discovery on OpenSky. We want (and need) them sing from the rooftops about their OpenSky experiences. Every consumer interaction; from the emails we send, to goods merchant sell, the elegance and simplicity of the user experience and our tone when they call us has the potential to convert casual users into passionate advocates and lovers of OpenSky.
Recently I’ve had a few chances to speak with a former President of eBay. She breaks down the three key success drivers to eBay (and all marketplaces) as the following:
Selection is critical because the more spectacular and unique goods available in the marketplace, and the more diverse, dynamic and comprehensive, the more the marketplace becomes a “go to” destination for a member. OpenSky can become the only game in town. We’re not there yet. This is why we must continue to work closely with our merchants to increase both the number and quality of items on our platform. Members need more. And then more still after that.
Value is critical for commerce. Members spend money only when they believe they are getting a real deal, an exclusive item, fast shipping, etc. They will buy elsewhere if the perceived value is better elsewhere. Our marketplace needs merchants dedicated to providing Value to members and do so eagerly and with regularity. This is why we must continue to focus on helping merchants make and distribute posts that sell to broad audiences in order to get the right goods in front of the right people.
Trust is the bedrock of our marketplace. Merchants must know that we have their backs (because we do). Consumers must know that they are respected and revered (because they are). Merchants and Consumers must create trusting relationships directly with one another. As that happens (which it is) our community is building trust.
Mike is driving the company towards important and significant steps in all of these big areas. Over the next 60 days, we have important milestones ahead: the holiday shopping season, the release of our Android App, International, the improved merchant join flow, simplified and clarified navigation and many more critical elements. We are bold and brave.
And at our core – let’s be a community. A team bonded by our commitment to one another and to help merchants grow their businesses and help consumers discover the world’s best goods. Let this guide us. Let’s do that with relentless passion, a friendly and open spirit and the unbridled creativity and enthusiasm that has made the last couple of months spectacular and can make the next sprint even better.
I tweeted yesterday that I was at “the corner of hustle and resilience” (@johncaplan). I’m damn glad that I’m there standing next to you. I hope you have a fun wknd.
-john (founder / ceo)
ps. Watch this video and share it to Facebook, in an email, on your blog, etc.-> and write something like this: I’m fired up about OpenSky