For Nick Huzar, Bellevue-based OfferUp started as a solution to a problem all too common in the modern world: he had to get rid of his old stuff.
“I just wanted it gone,” said Huzar, the company’s CEO.
In 2011, Huzar and his wife had just had a child — a daughter — and they needed to clear out their old things to make room for her. Dispensing old stuff was a hassle, and not being a fan of Craigslist or eBay’s interface, Huzar wanted a simpler solution to his own problems.
So, he and co-founder Arean van Veelen came up with OfferUp, which lets users buy and sell directly without giving out their personal information.
“Because of the smartphone, we were able to take a problem space and reimagine it entirely,” Huzar said. Instead of using an encyclopedic layout like Craigslist, OfferUp was designed as a smartphone app first instead of a website.
Since it was designed for the smartphone, OfferUp’s user interface focuses on being accessible first, so app users can easily make money from their unwanted possessions. “I’ve always thought about what we’re doing as unlocking value — and value’s sitting in our homes,” Huzar said.
However, Huzar noticed that a simple user interface took a backseat for many. “As I engaged more and more people, especially women, I found that they didn’t care,” Huzar said. “They were like, ‘I’m terrified of a person I don’t know coming to my house.’”
As a result, safety became one of the core pillars of OfferUp. Users can set up trades through the app without needing to give a stranger their phone number or email. When users do meet, they can choose to do so at designated “Community MeetUp Spots” in public, often located next to a police station or a local retailer.
OfferUp reaches out to businesses and public services like these to coordinate their efforts so that users can feel safe buying and selling their items. Huzar said that police reacted to their efforts with both surprise and approval.“Usually the feedback [from police] is ‘No one’s ever approached us before’,” Huzar said.
Sometimes, safety and simplicity can mean the same thing. Users can build a robust profile on OfferUp over time. People rate their transactions, leave comments about how other users behaved, and can even upload pictures of themselves so finding other users is as simple and safe as possible. Huzar said that these features allow people to ask questions and judge whether another user is trustworthy.
“Do they have a picture of themselves? Do they having ratings and reputation? How often do they show up?” Huzar said, listing questions that users may have while finding a buyer and seller.
OfferUp also uses an array of software to keep its users safe, like their natural language algorithm that can tell if a meetup location or time is unsafe, or the optional TruYou feature that can verify user identity through OfferUp so buyers and sellers know they can be trusted.
And if users want to skip the meeting entirely, or just don’t have time, they can have the item shipped. “We’re doing everything we can to make it a more trusted experience,” Huzar said.
Today, Nick’s daughter is 7 years old, and instead of creating a company to help people sell their old stuff, Huzar uses OfferUp to buy goods for himself and his family.
“My daughter’s reading these books called the ‘Dork Diaries.’ There was like 10 of them,” Huzar said. He groaned that they would have had to pay twice as much for them normally, but with OfferUp, he was able to ship them to his house for a good price.
“She got it delivered today,” Huzar said.