Bureau of Trade raises $1.2M in seed funding

Steven Loeb · September 26, 2012 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/2a74

Online marketplace startup finds unique items on eBay and Craiglist

Updated to reflect comment from Bureau of Trade

Have you ever gone to a website like eBay to buy someone a gift, and had to wade through a ton of junk just to find that one really cool thing that nobody has? It can be a really daunting task that can take hours. So why hasn’t anyone though to take those really cool, unique items and put them all in one place?

Online marketplace Bureau of Trade does just that, and it has raised $1.2 million in seed funding, the company said Wednesday.

The round was led by Foundation Capital, with contributions from Founder Collective, Courtney Holt on behalf of TechFellows Fund, and select angels.

The money will be used to develop new social sharing tools, which will allow users of the site to seek advice from one another. Bureau of Trade will also expand the demographics it reaches, as the site currently caters to men aged 28 to 45. It plans to create additional website for other age groups and genders.

Bureau of Trade is an online marketplace, which says that it "combines entertainment with commerce," though, looking at the site, it's hard to see what exactly the company means by "entertaining." It looks like a typical e-commerce site to me. 

In an interview with VatorNews, Bureau of Trade founder Michael Moskowitz said that what what makes the site entertaining is a media component missing from other auction websites.

Others, like eBay and Craigslist, are "soulless" and lack design savvy. What sets Bureau of Trade apart from them is its use of media to tell the story of the item; what Moskowitz calls it "narrative merchandise."

To help tell the story of the items it sells, Bureau of Trade will, for example, give the history of the designer and the company that is selling, and may tell users how the item has been used in the past. The company will also incorporate video, text and live events, such as auctions, to help push the narrative.

"It's about making people smile and learn," Moskowitz says. He wants them to spend time in world, giving the item personality.

"I want to turn it from a thing to THE thing."

The site is meant to find one of a kind items that might be overlooked on other websites by searching through eBay and Craiglist to find “the world’s most unique collections of merchandise” geared toward men, which it then resells to customers on its site. The company calls its approach “transactional entertainment.”

The uniqueness comes from the items it sells, which are not just generic things that people can find anywhere, and the way it breaks it down to demographics.

Items on the site include African porcupine quills, Civil War bullet heads, petrified lightning, vintage timepieces, classic cars and authentic collectibles. Items can be searched for one of three ways: by decade, country of origin or by style, including American West, Eastern Seaboard, and The Orient. Items available go all the way back to the 1600s.

Right now 80% of the items sold on Bureau of Trade come from eBay, and 20% are from designers and other places. Moskowitz says those two numbers will switch eventually.

He wants the company to only be working with merchants that can be authenticated, as what people buy on the site should be investments, not purchases.

So far, Moskowitz says that the website has had no issues with any of its customers not being satisfied with what they bought.

Menlo Park, California-based Bureau of Trade launched in beta in February, and has seen its membership grow 30% every month since then. The site now has more than 40,000 users, with a sell-through rate of 80%, which the company credits to its focus on design and the entertainment experience for the customer.

(Image source: https://www.bureauoftrade.com)

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