A Guide To a Marketplace Startup
Updated: Jun 8
Introduction to a Marketplace
A Marketplace is a fascinating business model. It often is two-sided to bring Supply to meet a niche Demand for a certain verticle or category with the matchmaking technology in the middle. There are many ways to bring revenue to your business, traditionally, most use a Rake (Platform Service Fee &) which is a percentage of the gross transaction total the Demand is paying. It can be paid by either side of the transaction or by only one of them!
The tricky part about building a marketplace is often the classic Chicken & Egg problem. Do you build Supply before getting Demand, or do you leverage Demand to get Supply? You can read more about it in our previous post here. Creating a marketplace can be very time-consuming and get very expensive between building the technology to streamline & enable the transactions / matchmaking and actual business development.
That is why we created this Blog Post, a guide to starting a marketplace on a budget.
Tools to Use
There are many, many options out there on the internet to leverage, these are not the only options and might not be the cheapest, however, they are tested in the real world and they work!
Gathering feedback on your idea / concept is beyond critical at this point, before any code is written make sure you speak to anyone who'll listen & respond with honest feedback. We use a Storytelling-based Product Development Strategy (read about it here) that allows you to test & validate your hypothesis and iterate accordingly based on feedback BEFORE you hire a developer or start coding.
Collecting Emails / Waitlist
The wider of a net you use, the more fish (leads) you're likely to collect. Do some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) research to see what keywords your target personas are searching and create content-specific landing pages to reel them in. Unstack & Carrd are excellent no-code tools to use to create many landing pages on your domain.
There are other tools if you want to gamify the Waitlist experience, Kickofflabs is a great tool to use to help create a winning Waitlist CX (Customer Experience).
Designing & Prototyping
Do NOT continue sketching your ideas down on your napkin and passing them to a developer and expect them to create a masterpiece. Unfortunately, that isn't how Product Development works. You can create Wireframes with no prior design experience using Figma. Wireframes are essentially the bone structure of the UI (User Interface). This helps to map out your vision for the marketplace and leverage it as an asset in your Storytelling to paint the picture.
You're able to later turn these Wireframes into a beautiful mock or prototype by hiring a Designer on Fiverr or employing one full-time (you'll need them). The idea is to create a fully interactive prototype that can be used to help fundraise by showing potential investors what the technology will look like and how the User will experience your platform. These are also absolutely necessary for frontend development also with User Stories.
Managing Insights (Feedback)
Keep track of every piece of product or business-related feedback you receive in your journey of developing it. It will most likely come back to bite you later on when you can't remember why you changed a UX workflow and revert back to your original plan.
The easiest is using a spreadsheet and using tabs to break the Platform down. This could also act as a CRM to manage people who are open to being interviewed later to provide more feedback. Having a handful of people to use to bounce ideas off of is nothing short of a great idea. Read the Design Thinking Sprint book to get a better understanding of how you can conduct a User Interview.
Slack, Slack, Slack. Slack is a truly amazing tool for team communication or even starting to grow your community! They offer a Startup-friendly pricing plan (FREE) that has limited features, but they're all you need to start anyways.
Every Founder has their own way to raise money for their Startup. An easy way to share your Intro & Pitch Decks and also track who views them is by creating a Brief. This is a free tool by NFX that you're able to utilize to summarize why someone should invest in your idea. A big plus is that it already looks good on a mobile device. As your idea evolves or changes are made, you can update the content that is hosted on the same single URL. This gives flexibility and forgiveness when you have a bright idea in the middle of the night, you can update the Brief immediately for the next potential investor to see.
Research can never be overlooked. SEO is a marketplace's secret weapon when done correctly by a professional team. Doing some preliminary research on the variety of topics your marketplace involves is a great way to understand what content you need to be following & publishing early on. SEMRush is an excellent tool to use to grasp the fundamentals of the overly-complex world of SEO.
Marketplaces are complex and can vary from verticle to geography. There are some amazing resources available to learn as much as possible! For people who are just getting started or even for the pros, Sharetribe is an amazing resource for learning everything from building an MVP to scaling the business.
If you want to connect with like-minded people, there is a community waiting for you, a community of Marketplace Experts! Everything Marketplaces was created to connect people who want to discuss any marketplace-related topic, get feedback, and connect with peers. It is an excellent resource to grow your professional network or even possibly meet a Co-Founder.
If you're interested in learning more about marketplaces, we are more than happy to chat with you to discuss your plans & concept.