San Francisco-based Givengine recently launched its mobile app out of private beta, giving users the ability to share and give they own but may not use as often or plan on throwing away or request and list their needs for others to see. The app makes it easier for people to feel good about helping someone they care about out when they’re need it, in addition to providing a means to recycle products and packaging, and saving money by not having to purchase something brand new in the process.
The idea came to founder and Chief Giver Chad Perry after a series of events related to disaster relief efforts he was involved with in Bangkok, and earlier in his life when his father coordinated the disaster relief efforts for his own town when they were hit by a flood. “They didn’t have smart phones, they barely had lap tops. He handed out pieces of paper to all the volunteers and said, ‘write down all the stuff you could donate or lend, and put your name number on top’, and at night-time him and his friend went through the list and circled the things they needed and told them to bring this, and this, but not this,” Perry said in an interview. “I then started working on this app that let people take photos of all the things they had at home that they’d be willing to lend or donate, and that’s where Givengine came from.”
Getting setup on the app is a straightforward process where users login via Facebook Connect and can start building their sharing circle composed of friends, families, and even co-workers, essentially people they see on a day-to-day or frequent basis. They can then take photos of items they have and within 30 seconds upload it onto both their Givengine feed and Facebook to showcase what they have to lend or give away, with the bulk of items currently being swapped on the platform being clothing, sport equipment and power tools. Other users in the users sharing circle can then request and like what they see featured or they can post what they need for others to see. Exchange of goods are completely free, meaning the platform isn’t meant to help users generate extra revenue from the items they own.
The company is currently focused on user acquisition and how they engage and interact with the app, with the company using its data to iterate on their app and their monetization strategy. “We’ve got some things we’ve not yet rolled out yet, we’re looking to get a large user base before adding any friction along the form of monetization. But from the time we knew that when it was time to pay the bills, we knew what we wanted to do, some of those things have developed, we just haven’t turned it on,” Perry added.
The sharing economy has certainly grown to increasingly provide individuals with the means to give away, sell, and make money from everything ranging from renting their cars to their couches and skills, however, a few companies have attempted to enable more centralized sharing for free amongst a closed circle rather than publicly. Companies like Neighborgoods, which has had trouble getting enough traction to really take off, and FreeCycle, a Craigslist for giving free things away, are more well-known names, while Uniiverse has also gotten a lot of attention and includes both items and skills listed for free and for a price tag. However, Perry noted that the biggest issue with competitor sites is a matter of trust. Whereas with Givengine, users are primarily dealing with their friends and family, in addition he said that users don’t have to go through a long process to get something up, with the app allowing anyone to quickly take a photo and have it listed.
The app has seen the bulk of its users concentrated in San Francisco, but has also seen traction in places the likes of Norway, Luxembourg Thailand, and Canada. Once the app picks up enough users and traction, the company will look to iterate on the service by enabling users to view and request items from friends of friends, and based on what kind of response they receive could see another feature that lets them do the same based on a given proximity to still have an air of familiarity to the exchange. Givengine will also be looking to launch on Android in the coming months. To gain traction, the company is relying heavily on altruistic driven behavior which may or may not come on top when given the other competing activities and apps out there fighter for user’s attentions.