Ina Fried

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EggDrop Bids to Crack Mobile Classifieds Market

Although eBay and Craigslist have made the process of selling unwanted items easier than in the past, former Google engineer Dan Zheng believes the process is still too hard.

“Selling something should be as easy as taking a picture on your phone,” said Zheng. And, so, he and a few partners have built a start-up — EggCartel — that does just that. The company’s EggDrop marketplace is designed to allow anyone with something to sell to snap a few pictures with their iPhone or Android device and list it for sale.

The other unique tack that EggDrop employs is a “falling price auction.” Those listing items choose a starting price and a floor, with the price dropping over a 72-hour period until an item is either sold or reaches that lower limit.

That, Zheng said, should allow EggDrop to appeal to both bargain-hunting buyers as well as sellers who are more interested in getting rid of unused items than getting every last dollar.

“It eliminates haggling so you don’t have to argue back and forth,” said Zheng, EggDrop’s CEO.

EggCartel, which has raised $1 million in seed funding from BlueRun Ventures and SV Angel, among others, is launching its Web site on Tuesday and already has the iPhone application in Apple’s store. The company hopes to have the EggDrop app for Android available on Wednesday.

The biggest challenge for any marketplace start-up is, of course, gaining enough scale to make the market work. To address that, EggDrop allows users to post their items to Twitter and Facebook, as well as to Craigslist from within their application.

Zheng also said the scale issue, though a challenge, is not as big a hurdle as one might think.

“What you are going to find, surprisingly, is you don’t need millions and millions of users to get to the point where local marketplace is liquid,” he said.

In general, Zheng said people tend to sell a few key categories of stuff — furniture, toys, games, electronics. “They tend to have a more general appeal compared to collectible items you see on eBay,” he said.

EggDrop also isn’t charging listing or transaction fees, though it might someday offer paid-for premium services.

Zheng points to the alpha test that the company did last year with only a couple thousand users. All the items, he said, were sold, including two cars, which surprised even Zheng.

For now, EggDrop is starting small. There are only seven employees, Zheng said, “including the intern.”

Although users from anywhere in the U.S. can sell items, Zheng said the marketing efforts will center around the company’s hometown of San Francisco and perhaps a few other major cities.

It’s just the latest challenge for Zheng, who worked at Google from 2002 until early last year, working on everything from Android, to paid ads, to Google Video, to building operations in China with Kai-Fu Lee.

“Every year and a half I love to work on something different and challenging,” Zheng said.

(Editor’s note: I misspelled Zheng’s last name in the initial version of this story.)

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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google