I’ve written a number of times here about how fond I am of the idea of drafting off other people’s businesses. The essence: Rather than creating something from scratch, be a pilot fish, at least initially, on someone else and use their growth to drive yours. It doesn’t have to be the long-term strategy, but it’s great way to goose early growth.
Case in point, Oliver Muoto and Aaron Sperling’s just-announced vFlyer –which I kinda think of as Pimp My eBay (or Craigslist, or whatever). Because rather than trying to create a new classifieds community, or a new classifieds search, or to force people to insert structured tags into classifieds postings, as Oliver explained to me this afternoon they are solving a mundane and more useful problem: Building better online classifieds flyers. It’s a great, dumb idea — prettying up online sales listings — but it’s also the sort of thing that sellers adopt right away, and that is useful, viral, and cheap to market.
While it’s almost always better to be an arms merchant than to fight the wars, you also need to be sure you can grow the arms merchant business. And there is in this case, with a great backchannel of “meterable” data on what descriptor tags are working, what works best, what templates are effective, and so on.
More broadly, there are other possibilities here too, like helping find a way to provide online sellers decent demand management tools. And where the hell is the Salesforce of individual selling anyway? While vFlyer may not turn into that company, it will happen, eventually, to some lucky outfit.