Quick Pitch: Goshi is an easy to use, hyper-local mobile marketplace with safe transaction hubs.
Genius Idea: A mobile marketplace for arts and crafts enthusiasts.
Fire up Craiglist, search for something you want and you’ll most likely find exactly what you’re looking for. This on-demand, instant-gratification search experience makes it nearly impossible for upstart companies looking to compete with the 16 year-old site on user experience and feature set alone.
Perhaps Goshi, a mobile-only marketplace for buyers and sellers of local goods, can avoid getting squashed by the fleshy veteran with a fresh and lightweight twist on neighborhood listings.
The startup, which launched its iPhone app [iTunes link] in Chicago last week, is attempting to hook new users with a predominately visual experience and a focus on item discovery, instead of search. Sellers can list an item with price, optional description and a photo. Seekers can use the app to happen upon cool or unique items for sale nearby.
To deliver on its visual promise, Goshi crops images of items for sale and emphasizes sellers’ photos throughout the application. Item discovery has been crafted around a hub-based experience; users are encouraged to post and exchange goods at personality-laden local coffee shops or “hubs.”
Goshi seeks to appeal to arts and crafts enthusiasts, along with the growing handmade goods community. “We’re more like Etsy than Craiglist,” Goshi co-founder Chad Lomax says of the company. “Goshi is for discovery and browsing things in your neighborhood.”
To that end, Goshi designs to work with chambers of commerce in various cities — it’s already doing so in Chicago — to create ad-hoc hubs for neighborhood sidewalk sales and craft fairs to help city’s promote their events and give shoppers a way to browse and locate items they want before they hit the streets. Also important to Goshi is mobilizing for-sale items at city thrift stores and second-hand shops.
Goshi is an almost-graduate of the Chicago accelerator program Excelerate Labs’ Summer 2011 program. The startup has secured $75,000 in seed funding and plans to release an application for Android in two to three weeks time. Goshi also plans to soon expand its application to New York and San Francisco communities.
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The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.