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over 7 years ago

Building apps for your neighborhood

A note from Colin J. Sims, Chief Operating Officer of in New York City:

You live in a very exciting time. Whereas the Internet emerged as a national commerce engine, for the first time it is becoming a local commerce engine as well. If you love your neighborhood, and the merchants within it that make it unique, then this is good news. Multiple studies show that locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much per dollar of revenue to our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors.

There is a reason that local commerce hasn’t already been conquered by an Amazon-like company: quite simply, it’s hard. Dealing with local businesses, onboarding them, updating their inventories, and communicating efficiently with them is difficult due to the sheer diversity of merchant types, sizes, POS systems, levels of technological sophistication, and even the variety of personalities in charge. And furthermore, local business owners are business owners first, and technologists second.

This is where comes in. Our business model is entirely predicated on driving sales for, and consumers to, local merchants. In other words, giving small businesses an efficient channel to sell merchandise online allows them to directly compete with both larger ecommerce companies like Amazon, and large physical retailers like Walmart for their share of the local consumer’s wallet. We have created the platform and built a network of 10,000 merchants (and growing!); we have built systems and processes for onboarding and communicating with local merchants; and now we have the first open API of its kind, which allows developers to tap into that network.

And that’s where YOU come in. We’ve done the boring stuff that we’re good at, now you do the fun stuff that you’re good at: building smart apps, websites and widgets on as many platforms as possible, in order to drive transactions to all the local merchants in your neighborhood. Have you ever wondered why you can’t order a sandwich from your Xbox? Why you can’t order ice for your cooler by tapping on your phone, while sitting in your backyard on a cool summer’s eve? The answer to both, from this point on is, “because you haven’t built it.” You are better at this stuff than us, trust us. You will think of features we haven’t thought of, devise social integrations slicker than we could dream of. You know what apps or gaming systems or websites the people in your neighborhood use better than we ever will. Frankly, given the possibilities, we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

The opportunity for smaller, local businesses to meaningfully participate in ecommerce is unprecedented. New industries will continue to be borne out of this process, but that doesn’t mean the mom-and-pop store down the street has to become extinct. We often hear from our politicians that small businesses are the “engine of our economy.” If that is true, then modern technology companies are the fuel. You are the fuel.