This year has seen a rash of startups from Asia coming over to the United States, many of them from China, including online direct sales company JD.com, microblogging service Sina Weibo, Chinese online cosmetics retailer JuMei, and Chinese internet giant Alibaba have all filed, or have already gone public in 2014.
There has also been activity from Japan, with mobile messaging app rumored to be going public in the U.S. something this year as well. Its clear that these companies see a big advantage and opportunity in entering the United States market.
Now we know who the next to make the move across the Pacific will be: community shopping app Mercari is setting up operations in the United States, the company has revealed to VatorNews. It will officially be launching here in the United States sometime around mid-September.
Founded in 2013 by executives at RockYou and Zynga, Mercari is a consumer-to-consumer resale shopping app designed exclusively for smartphones. Users can buy and sell anything, fashion, electronics, even cars, on the app. Only on iOS to start, Mercari will be launching in the United States with free listing and no commissions.
Here's how it works: with Mercari’s interface, users can buy and sell in seconds. Mercari then holds the payment and won’t release it to the seller until the buyer confirms receiving the item. Buyers will get the money back if they are not satisfied with the item they received.
Users can browse by category, search tag, and new items, and it employs a rating system for both buyers and sellers, which generates a feedback loop that holds the community accountable for honest, fair transactions.
Already, the top community shopping app in Japan, with more than 4 million downloads, or 10% of all smartphone owners in the country, the company sees a major opportunity to expand by coming to the United States, Ryo Ishizuka, co-founder of Mercari and president of US operations, told me.
"We see a huge opportunity in the United States, which is why we’ve chosen it as the place we’ll launch next," he said. "Almost everyone in America has access to a smartphone, and the most popular resale services in the country like Craigslist and eBay have left a lot of gaps in the market. We think people are ready for new and modern options. Craigslist has barely innovated since its onset, for instance."
Mercari's U.S. headquarters will be in San Francisco, and the company has brought on Ro Choy, COO of BitTorrent and veteran exec at eBay, as lead adviser to help with the launch.
"We believe the US market is poised for a resale service for mobile, and Mercari will likely expand as quickly as it did in Japan," Ishizuka told me.
While he called sites like eBay and Craigslist, "indirect competitors," Ishizuka also said its also "difficult to compare Mercari to either service, since they were both launched about 20 years ago for a very different era and platform."
Some other similar companies don't even have a mobile presence, while Mercari is mobile-only.
"In the US, we’re the only consumer-to-consumer resale service customized exclusively for smartphones selling all variety of items. So, there’s no one doing exactly what we’re doing," said Ishizuka.
Ultimately, Mercari is simply building upon what companies like Craigslist and eBay built, but bringing it into the future by taking it mobile.
"We developed Mercari as a resale shopping app for the smartphone era, which has opened up an enormous opportunity to make user-to-user selling easy, efficient and sustainable," said Ishizuka. "Craigslist and eBay showed us how resale services can help make global commerce more grassroots and democratic, but they were architected for the desktop computing era. We aim to transform the massive resale market in the same way and for the reasons Airbnb and Uber have transformed the entire hotel and transportation industry."
Since its founding last year, Mercari has raised roughly $18 million to date from Japanese investors including Global Brain, Globis Capital Partners, Itochu Technology Ventures and GMO Venture Partners. This funding "is fueling both our Japanese and US operations."
It has 100,000 items listed every day. A quarter of all purchased items are bought within the first hour of being listed and more than half of the users in Japan are acting as both buyer and seller.