Say you’re part of a community- like a university, neighborhood, or any other medium to large sized organization. If you’ve got some things you want to buy or sell, the standard way of hawking your wares is to post it on that one bulletin board down that one hallway that everyone forgets to check. The same goes for the ride-sharing board. It’s worked for generations, but it could use an update to the digital age. Current solutions, like throwing your items up onto Ebay or Craigslist makes it harder to move larger items, and doesn’t include the same amount of trust that the small community board do. In comes Kassi, a service for your community to buy and sell items and services from each other.
I got the chance to talk with co-founder of Kassi Juho Makkonen, who told me the first version of Kassi was launched in sept of 2009, but only in the Aalto university campus in Helsinki. At that time, founders Makkonen and Antti Virolainen didn’t have any ideas about entrepreneurship or scaling Kassi– they were just working as researchers for the OtaSizzle research project, which aimed to provide new media services to students at Aalto.
The craigslist-like product received good feedback from its users, and they realized they could take their product to companies and neighborhoods and people would find value in it. The service has a clean interface, and nicely highlights the sports equipment, dining room furniture, and apartments that people are trying to sell to their community. The service also has a requested items section, where you can find products and services from people you trust.
Because most of the transactions take place in person, they’re first focusing on a b2b model where they can sell their Kassi solution to large organizations who can whitelabel and customize Kassi to meet their needs. Secondly they’re testing out the idea of adding advertising into the free version of Kassi, which could be a great advertising platform for restaurants and local businesses.
Currently they have around 4,000 users at Aalto university, and their first large paying customer has been the Finnish Homeowners’ Union who wants to offer scalible solutions to to all their smaller local associations. Aside from a couple more pilot programs at other Finnish universities, the city of Helsinki and the city of Lahti are running pilot programs in three neighborhoods each.
Kassi is also taking part in Startup Chile, with one of their founding members getting there by the Aalto on Waves ship from Helsinki to Brasil. The other two members of the team are staying in Finland to focus on matters here, but it sounds like Kassi is doing an interesting transition from research to business.
In the future, Makkonen tells me they’re looking to expand rapidly and also provide a tool where anyone can set up their own Kassi within minutes. They expect this feature to launch this spring.