Monday, October 31, 2005

Craigslist--Can social values overcome market pressure?

The other day I listened to an interview with Jim Buckmaster, the CEO of on NPR. (I think Jim Buckmaster has the coolest name of any CEO in technology!)

Before I begin, some interesting Craigslist facts:
  • The person-to-person online commerce market has an estimated value of $18B
  • Craigslist uses only open source software on its servers
  • The company's only revenue comes from help wanted ads in LA, NYC and SF
  • Craigslist accepts no commercial advertising
  • The site generates 2.4 billion page hits/month
  • Users of the site generate 4 million posts a month
  • Most amazingly, Craigslist manages all this with 18 employees!

Buckmaster, when asked if he had bottom-line goals, said he doesn't really have any --he's more interested in's positive impact on society.

Interestingly, EBay owns 25% of the company. In spite of that ownership position, Buckmaster says he feels no pressure from EBay to start making money, and the CEO does not see that changing in the future--something that suggests he might be in a dreamworld, although I'm happy that he can go along feeling no pressure. Still, EBay surely sees the value/impact of Craigslist in terms of its potential to steal revenue from EBay itself.

At the same time, it is interesting to see that Google might be going into the ad space in competition with Craigslist (and competing with other ad outlets like newspapers, etc.)

Kudos to Jim Buckmaster and team for putting together a great concept, and one with strong social values. However, I think the competition in this space is heating up fast with growing pressure from EBay and Google.

I will be eagerly watching this situation to see what happens between now and January 1.


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