With up-to-the-minute news readily available on personal computers, it was a no-brainer that the Internet would usurp the daily newspaper as the go-to source for information. And then came eBay and Craigslist, crimping the classified camp.
But neither websites were of much help to Ryan Eltherington, who last year had a last-minute wish to see his revered San Francisco Giants in the playoffs against the Atlanta Braves.
“It was the day of the game,” Eltherington recalled.
At the tip of his fingertips, the Los Altos resident made a quick search on his computer.
“I found some (tickets) in Gilroy, but I was in Foster City,” he said.
Instead, he headed to the ballpark to take his chances with scalpers – one caved on the inflated price well into the second inning. All was not lost as Eltherington watched his team win the second game of that series.
But the incident set his mind in motion. There should be a way to bring buyers and sellers together in close proximity to one another. And who needs a computer?
“More people are starting to use the smart-phone,” he said. “So the goal was to bring them together in a mobile-phone App.”
An application could be described as a smartphone Web page, but it’s technically software that can run on a phone, tablet, e-reader or iPod that connects to wireless carrier networks and has an operating system that supports stand-alone software. And therein lies the rub. The Gunn High School graduate has a background in advertising and business development but lacked the technological know-how to produce an up-and-coming App.
So he pitched the idea to family – his brother Ross, who developed the application’s technology; his sister, Laura, knowledgeable in graphic design; and brother-in-law Bob Scirpo, who developed Facebook and Twitter pages to advertise the App.
“They’re some very smart, dynamic people,” Eltherington said. “It went from an idea to developing into a national product.”
Launched last month, the free SideSell App allows users anywhere in the country to purchase or post items for sale indexed by product and location. With the user’s location typed into the iPhone, SideSell’s homepage displays a map of the vicinity highlighted with pushpins – Eltherington calls them verticals – that represent items posted for sale. The pins’ colors represent specific item categories, such as tickets, yard sales, open houses and services.
Click on a pin – a Tony Hawk skateboard is on sale for $50 in Palo Alto. If sellers are concerned about privacy or safety issues, they can post their location at a public place.
“You don’t have to post an item from your house,” he said. “For privacy, you could post at Starbucks.”
An in-App messaging tool enables buyers to text sellers to ask questions or set up a meeting.
In cash purchases, Eltherington doesn’t get a dime, but when buyers use cash-credit systems such as PayPal, SideSell receives 5 percent of the transaction.
“If you’re paying $1,000 or $1,500 for something, you don’t want to walk around with that kind of cash in your pocket,” he said.
When the buyer completes a transaction, the seller is notified via iPhone and delivers the goods.
So far, so good.
“We’re getting a lot of downloads and there’s a lot of engagement,” he said. “It’s providing value.”
Eltherington envisions SideSell becoming the new FourSquare, which started as an App and grew into the company around the software.
“It’s hard to differentiate between a company and an App,” he said.
So Eltherington’s focus is to get the word out on SideSell to social networks, tech blogs and other online venues, reach out to angel investors and continue to develop the App as needed with new features and upgrades.
“There’s a lot more to do,” he said. “It’s about building out the company.”
But what Eltherington really likes is the job’s flexibility that allows him to attend Giants games when he wants.
“I also get to get up and take my son to school,” he said.
For more information, visit www.sidesell.com.