The Marketplace Theme at TechCrunch Disrupt

This week the OpenSesame management team is attending TechCrunch Disrupt, the semi-annual startup conference convened by TechCrunch, the tech news blog. We’re attending Disrupt to learn about creating and growing technology companies and to meet people who can help us get better at our jobs.

While the executive team is on the spot in San Francisco, I’ve been watching the live stream while keeping up with my usual blogging, tweeting and customer service activities. One of the key components of Disrupt is the startup battlefield, where fledgling companies present their businesses and audiences and judges vote on their favorites. During yesterday’s startup battlefield, I started to notice a pattern: Marketplaces. More and more startups are applying marketplace models to solving consumer problems.

To be clear, marketplaces are a specific type of website: a place where many buyers can shop from goods and services provided by many sellers. A commonly-agreed on marketplace helps sellers and buyers meet up. Three of yesterday’s startup battlefield competitors are taking a marketplace approach to solving consumer problems:

  • Verious is a marketplace for mobile app components (basically, chunks of code that can be repurposed within a wide variety of apps).
  • Farmigo is a marketplace for local produce, connecting consumers to small family farms to buy fresh, high quality fruits and vegetables.
  • Tonara is an incredible application that displays sheet music and tracks your progress playing the music in real time. This is its proprietary technology but the business model is getting content from a wide variety of music publishers to sell in an open marketplace.

These are three companies doing very different things, with one common thread: They are all operating in markets with many distributed sellers – app developers, music publishers, local farmers – where it can be difficult to achieve the perfect match between buyers and sellers. Like Verious and Tonara, OpenSesame is a digital content marketplace.

We believe this model, which has proven successful in digital music, books and stock photos, is the key to unlocking growth of elearning, a sector dominated by many sellers. Our goal is to make buying and selling elearning as easy as shopping for a song from iTunes, the dominant digital music marketplace. Seeing more and more marketplace solutions to consumer pain points validates our confidence in our elearning marketplace.

Image credit: Troy B. Thompson on Flickr