Seattle Startup Bonanzle is the anti-eBay

Like many online marketplaces, Seattle-based startup Bonanzle was born to serve individual sellers who had grown dissatisfied with eBay. Today, Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb has a closer look at their business model and the emerging

In June of 2008, Seattle programmer Bill Harding launched an online marketplace called Bonanzle. The site, a completely grassroots effort with zero VC or angel funding, is in many ways the anti-eBay. Instead of focusing solely on the goods being sold, Bonanzle is attempting to build a marketplace where the people are relevant, too. On Bonanzle, buyers can chat with sellers in real-time or over instant messaging, an experience that delivers a more social experience to the online shopping process. These interactions have allowed Bonanzle to build a strong community, but will that be enough to take on eBay?

As with any new entrant to this market, Bonanzle isn’t just competing with eBay, but also with online giants like Amazon and Craigslist as well as niche sites like Etsy and Worthpoint. To differentiate themselves from the pack, Bonanzle’s angle is to re-create the social deal-making experience of a garage sale.

With Bonanzle, sellers set up virtual booths where they display their items for sale and shoppers can interact with them while browsing through built-in chat features. Sellers can send messages to shoppers on the site in real-time by integrating their store’s chat window into their favorite IM client.

This is precisely what differentiate Bonanzle from eBay as sellers can capitalize on these personal social connections by offering special discounts as they see fit. They also have the opportunity to hold “bonanzas” – short publicized sales where sellers can deal in real-time on all their items.

Auction marketplace guru Ina Steiner of AuctionBytes likes what she sees with Bonanzle – “Bonanzle has designed a site that is very appealing and has ignited the passion of a core group of enthusiastic sellers. It’s not even a year old, and I expect it will face the same growing pains of other sites,” she says, “but it has a lean mean approach that will serve it well.”