Molly Scofield made a last minute decision to enter the pitch contest at the unConference last month and handily won the wildcard spot at the Bend Venture Conference. Her polished pitch for The Handsel, a mobile app that aims to improve how people buy, sell and swap used goods online, didn’t win the $10,000 concept prize, but it did garner some significant attention from the audience and investors alike.
Scofield, a senior vice president at Global Strategies International, co-founded the company with Dave Mullan, a former Microsoft employee and Seattle startup veteran, nearly two years ago. BendTECH caught up with Scofield this week to learn more about Scofield’s vision for the company and what spurred her impromptu unConference presentation.
Startup: The Handsel
Co-founders: Molly Scofield and Dave Mullan
Headquarters: Bend. More specifically, Scofield’s kitchen.
What is The Handsel? It’s a peer-to-peer marketplace that provides personalization through curated content, communities and powerful discovery tools. Currently, it’s available as a mobile app in beta and we’re adding new features regularly. It allows you to post a listing for something you want to sell to one or multiple Facebook groups, your Facebook wall or just The Handsel. You can see all of your messages from people interested in that item in one place and conveniently manage the all the related communication. We’re also helping streamline the process of managing these groups for the admins, some of whom are spending 20-plus hours a week trying to maintain their sites.
Where did you get the idea? I was a managing director for Global Strategies in Paris. We needed to furnish our apartment. I knew that there was a whole community of ex-pats who had things we could buy, but the process was incredibly cumbersome. There wasn’t any one place that connected all these people and allowed them to buy and sell their things. I was shocked that no one provided that experience. When I came back to the U.S., I realized there’s a lot of people looking for alternatives to Craigslist or Ebay and many of them are using Facebook Groups. In fact, there’s currently more than 15 million people that belong to public FB groups with the words buy, sell, trade or swap in them. All these people are transacting in this way, but still there’s not a way to do it efficiently.
So is the app just for Facebook? Integrating with Facebook Groups is our first order of business. But we realize that many people aren’t on Facebook, so we won’t be exclusively tied to it.
What prompted your unConference pitch? We initially hadn’t applied for BVC, mostly because we weren’t quite ready. But then I received an email the day before the unConference about the Wild Card Slot – something I wasn’t aware existed (The winners of the unConference earned a spot to pitch at the sixth concept stage company at BVC). I had also heard that there weren’t any women pitching on the BVC stage. It was completely impromptu. But I wanted to get up there to represent myself and our business, but also women entrepreneurs in Bend.
Did you gain anything from the experience? Yes. We definitely received some added attention for our business, and that was encouraging. The event also spurred us to focus telling our story clearly and concisely in the three-minute timeframe allowed.
How are you funded? We’ve raised some money from a couple of angels (Scofield declined to disclose how much). We’re trying to balance where to invest the money we have right now, and we’re actively raising more.
Where will the revenue come from? We’re still testing revenue models. It will likely be some level of subscription for the sellers to post things. There may also be some features you can buy that let you boost a post to the top, etc.
And what’s happening with The Handsel now? We launched a limited, public beta site last month. We have about 55 to 60 users. We want to prove the product in the marketplace. We’re moving toward testing it out with a local buy-sell Facebook group that has approximately 2,000 members. That will be a big coming out party for us.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].