For the Person Who Has It All, Skyara Sells New Stuff to Experience (Video)

Does tea with Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ron Conway and 1990s rap legend MC Hammer sound too legit? What about spending the day harvesting crabs under the Golden Gate Bridge? Or maybe a hands-on coffee-crafting session with an expert barista?

Skyara, a buzzy little start-up has created a marketplace for people to sell experiences to folks who are looking to do something other than the same old thing.

“It’s sort of like Airbnb for experiences,” co-founder Dennis Liu explained, referencing another buzzy start-up.

He continued: “It’s one part Etsy, some Expedia and a little of Groupon built on top of our own robust scheduling platform.”

In practice, users log in and are asked if they want to purchase or provide a service. The providers are taken through a process of describing their offering, providing images, setting up times and providing enough personal info so the Skyara team can contact them and verify they are legit. Skyara takes a 12 percent fee on the transaction on the seller’s side.

The purchasers can currently browse or search through about 200 different experiences, ranging from a boudoir photography session (Skyara checked–the photographer is well known in the arena) to the less understandable half-hour of punching dozens of plastic inflatable clowns that someone has collected in an apartment.

But according to Liu, the service has an almost three percent conversion rate from visit to actual sale on their Web site, including all the diluting traffic it gets from outside of the San Francisco area, Skyara’s only market so far.

He said that about 10 percent of all visitors do something valuable on the site, whether that’s offering a service, buying one, telling Skyara where they live and that they’d like to have the service there or signing up for updates.

An interesting wrinkle has emerged in the last few days, as Skyara has partnered with the ongoing UCSF Children’s Hospital charity challenge. This is where the current deal to meet Conway and Hammer came from–which you may enter to win by donating to the UCSF challenge. It brings the “experience sales” idea right back to its ancestral home–charity auctions.

Skyara came together as the brainchild of Liu and Jonathan Wu, former classmates at the University of Pennsylvania, who had moved to New York for jobs as business consultants.

They originally conceived of it as an Expedia for outdoor activities and brought on Steven Ou, the third co-founder, to help them build out the scheduling platform.

The trio was accepted into the i/o Ventures incubator this past March and decided to pivot into Skyara’s current “experience marketplace” model shortly before its first public demo in late September.

“It was like two weeks of fighting, but we decided to pivot because we’d all spent several weeks cold-calling outdoor activity businesses and it was really slow,” Liu said.

Wu, who now heads business development, explained that the founders were concerned that they were going to have an “Open Table” problem, referring to the restaurant reservation service.

“We didn’t want it to take 10 years to have it be really useful,” said Wu.

The whole team agrees that their growth model will be all about expanding into new markets, the first of which will be New York and Chicago. Skyara plans to raise capital to expand early next year.

Besides new markets, the company is adding tools to help people come up with ideas for experiences to offer, and to boost the community aspect of the experience, building a little more of Etsy’s users-as-both-buyers-and-sellers model to its service.

Said Liu: “I’ve met some incredible people on these experiences, and that should be a part of it.”

We spoke with the fresh-faced Skyara trio at Park Chow restaurant in San Francisco. Here’s the video:


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