Celebrating Our One Year Anniversary (and lessons learned)
When I originally launched Gear Offer, I did it quietly. No press releases or fan-fare. On June 28th, 2018 at around 3:00pm, I clicked a button that said "publish" and just like that, it was out in the wild. Oh, prior to that, I spent 2 and a half years of my life writing the code to make that moment happen, but it was with that single button click that this became a real thing.
I knew long before writing the first line of code that I wanted to create the best platform for buying and selling camera gear, and it would be one the most difficult things I'd ever do. My assumption has proven true. We'll get to that shortly. Thankfully, I was able to bring on a good friend as my co-founder, Anthony. When things are crazy, he's always calm and reasonable (I'm often not). Having the right business partner is invaluable and I couldn't have asked for a better one.
During the past year, we've learned a lot of lessons about improving our software, about establishing trust, about marketing and about fraud. We've poured in countless hours and lot's of money. Starting a 2 sided marketplace is very difficult, but for our first year, we've done well. Gear Offer isn't setting the world on fire yet. What we have done is laid a solid foundation for the years to come and that's critical.
Here's what we've learned in our first year:
- Providing value for buyers and sellers of camera gear when starting out is hard, but it's not impossible, even with a small inventory. Thanks to some great people (you) who were willing to list your gear for sale, despite knowing that it might take a while to sell, we have completed many successful transactions and made a lot of buyers and sellers happy. Thank you early adopters for working with us. Our inventory has continued to grow and is providing more value every day.
- Establishing trust is hard. Being the new kid on the block isn't easy because people aren't familiar with us. It's not easy to trust this new website with sensitive financial information and high-value transactions. I totally understand that and I'm grateful for those of you who have taken a chance and put your trust in us. With time, we'll be able to establish more trust and we'll do that by making sure our customers are happy and their transactions go smoothly, as they have thus far.
- Most people are good, some people are out to commit fraud. One of the things that I struggle with most is fraudsters. I just can't stand the idea that people will put a lot of effort into trying to rip other people off. Thankfully, none of them have succeeded to the point of causing our customers any loss. We respond to fraud with smarter security systems and by spotting patterns (constant monitoring helps too). Sometimes this causes false positives where we might end up locking the account of a legitimate customer, but that's pretty rare.
- Building a very large custom software application is worth the time and effort. Because Gear Offer is a completely custom application, we're able to make quick changes in response to user feedback to make our product better. But, it also means there are bugs to find and fix. We've fixed a lot of bugs. I'm very confident that we have a solid, reliable platform after the past year of refining it. Anthony and I have both been professional software developers for 16 years (each) and that's a big advantage for our product.
- Creating something new and seeing it succeed is all about the long game. I'm not a patient person. I want things to happen yesterday. But, building a new way to buy and sell camera gear can't happen fast and that's been the hardest lesson for me. My co-founder is much better at patience and helped me get used to the idea that it will take years before Gear Offer reaches a wider market and it's full potential. It was always a big idea and big ideas take time. We're in it for the long haul.
Now that we've improved the software that Gear Offer is built on, figured out how to thwart evil doers and increased our inventory, we're going to spend the next year working to tell the world about it (we could use your help). Building an awesome product is great but it doesn't help anyone if it's unknown. We plan to focus on marketing and creating unique content that's valuable to the photography gear-loving community. With a very limited budget, it won't be easy, but we're committed.
For those of you who've signed up, become sellers and buyers, we're extremely grateful. Thank you for trusting us and thank you for your feedback. You're the reason we built this thing and nothing makes me happier than seeing a smooth gear transaction go down between fellow photography nerds. That's what keeps me going.