Hello Market, who have just announced their first funding round of $2.5M, is a C2C marketplace platform service that allows users to sell, buy, and exchange goods and services through mobile platforms (Android, iOS) as well as the web. According to Co-Founder Alber Hahn their goal now is to continue to apply, update, and expand upon the craigslist C2C commerce model, with a current focus on further expansion into Japan. The Hello Market apps can currently be found on the Korean Google Play store and the Korean Apple App Store and on the web.
$2.5M in the bag
Participating in the Series A round (the first investment the company has raised since founding in 2011) was a mix of strategic and financial investors from Korea. The total amount raised totals 3 billion won (just short of $3 million USD by current exchange rate standards). Leading the investment was
GS HomeShopping (GSHS), one of the largest TV home shopping companies in the world as well as the leading multimedia retailer in Korea. Also participating were 3 Korean Venture Capital firms:
Hanhwa Investment Corp, Daesung Private Equity Inc, and
Hanbit Investment Co Ltd.
Hello Market is comprised of a unique team of five co-founders. All had successful careers across diverse industries including Law, Consultancy, and Academia, and felt that they needed to fulfil a greater purpose. Hahn wanted to create something awesome, and to dramatically improve an existing market. The team launched Hello Market in Korea as an app for Android in September 2011, with the iOS launch coming just 1 month later. The website was then added a year later in September 2012. They aim to improve the selling experience in the C2C consumer marketplace, globally.
Hello Market has now been downloaded by approximately one million users and in just under three years over 4 million items have been registered on HelloMarket, with approximately 2.7 million of those items registered in the last year (May 2013 ~ now). The total value of registered items (GMV) is circa $130 million, with the total value of items sold currently standing at $43 million.
And additional service, HelloMarket Green Campus, was launched in january 2013 in cooperation with Keimyung University. A wider role-out of this service is planned in the near future.
Hello Market soft launched their mobile apps for the Japanese market in February 2013, the first company to launch a C2C marketplace on Google Play in Japan.
About the service
Hello Market is a location-based service, which allows users to see items displayed graphically on a map interface. The company believes that this feature enables users to engage in quick face-to-face transactions which is believed to be one of the company's features that has led to their rapid growth and high engagement. With a great depth of understanding of the need for a secure online payment (if users don't want to use the face-to-face cash option), the payments process is backed by extensive back-end filtering and fraud prevention monitoring.
While the company currently makes use on an escrow payment system, there are hopes that in the future a more personal, faster, and easier system can be implemented, perhaps through partnership with another payments processor.
The service also features in-app shipping and delivery services, which include the popular delivery service offered by Korean convenience stores, as well as a door-to-door option.
User experience is of paramount experience and Hello Market boasts a highly advanced, dedicated customer service solution.
Having raised funding Hello Market plans to improve, expand, and promote their service, primarily in the Japanese market. They believe that one of the key benefits of having launched and built the service in Korea is the opportunity to have experienced platform growth in an environment of rapid mobile adoption. The team now plans to take these lessons to Japan and eventually to other global markets. The investment will also be used to improve all facets of the service, with a focus on payment, delivery and shipping, as well as UI/UX.
Long term goals for the company include expanding the Hello Market service to other C2C verticals beyond goods, to include services, handmade items, pets, etc.
Hahn explained: "Our ultimate vision is that anyone will be able to buy, sell, and exchange anything, anywhere, anytime to anyone. We believe that HelloMarket has an important role to play in making this future a reality. We are excited to have received investment from four organizations that believe we will play a key role in re-shaping the future of online-to-offline commerce and logistics."
Comparisons with Ebay and Craigslist?
While Hahn agreed that there are comparisons between the three services (Ebay, Craigslist, Hello Market) he believes that his company is developing a new reality for C2C commerce. He highlighted that Ebay has now become dominated by 'pro-sellers', which has crowded out opportunities for C2C users for finding buyers. And while he praised Craigslist for being an incredible 'community-based market-place' he believes that sellers deserve a more advanced selling platform that brings C2C commerce into the 21st century. Comparing the UX & UI of Craigslist and Hello Market, it is clear that this is a primary ambition.
Local competition in Japan
Mercari, a similar service in Japan, recently raised $14 million in funding and revealed plans to expand to the US. Hahn believes that rather than looking at the case of Mercari as a threat, Hello Market should see this as further evidence that the business model and opportunities for growth have been proven. Also, he stressed that Hello market entered the Japanese market some time ago and as a result has a strong foothold. Hello Market's investment now allows them to concentrate much more on expansion into Japan and to consolidate their position there, before advancing into other Asian markets.
So far the company has not raised any revenue and immediate monetization is not one of the company's ambitions, though Hahn expects that an initial revenue model will be built in by the end of this year. Instead Hello Market aims to continue to concentrate on perfecting the seller experience. Hahn believes that if the user experience is awesome other opportunities for generating reveune will emerge. He cited the case of Evernote as an example of a company that provides its core service free, and monetizes by adding additional services that can be charged. For Hello Market this could include faster / cheaper delivery, or payment solutions.