Thursday, December 23, 1999

’Net barter site
to offer home for
unwanted goods

An ex-Hawaii resident
will launch it on Christmas

By Peter Wagner


It may be the thought that counts, but who needs another wallet or a book you've already read?

Patrick Tao, a 29-year-old Hawaii transplant living in Santa Cruz, Calif. thinks he's found the answer to unwanted Christmas gifts and other goods that end up in the far corner of a closet.

"What better time than the gift-giving holidays to kick off an online barter service?" said Tao, who plans to launch on Christmas Day.

The service, a low-cost alternative to Internet auction sites like eBay or, will be a clearinghouse for things some people want to get rid of and others are trying to find.

Intellibarter will allow users to post separate lists showing what they have to offer and what they wish they had. The data base is then searched automatically for similar or matching entries.

While deals can include money, the idea is to trade goods for goods -- merchandise that users can "shop" for by browsing each others lists.

"People like to shop," Tao said. "They love to find a deal."

Unlike increasingly popular auction services that charge fees both to list and to sell items -- eBay charges 25 cents to $2 to list goods, plus 1.25 percent to 5 percent of sales transactions -- Intellibarter will charge a flat 35 cents to 50 cents per trade. As a promotion, all services are free until spring of next year.

"People out there may want what I have and I may want what they have," Tao said. "What we're trying to do is create a market where you can trade goods person-to-person without an intermediary."

Like the auction sites, will leave quality control and customer satisfaction to a "feedback" page that will allow users to share their bartering experiences.

Tao, a graduate of Kailua High School and Stanford University, has a degree in economics and is a former high-tech management consultant and hedge fund manager. An avid collector and trader of watches and comic books, the idea of a barter came to him after his online auction fees reached $200 a month.

"I thought, there must be a cheaper way to do this," he said.

Tao started working on a business plan for Intellibarter about six months ago and has spent about $250,000 on marketing and Web page development. Because his "inventory" is limited to the information participants provide, there is no need for a brick-and-mortar storefront or warehouse.

With an estimated 100 million Americans now online -- a figure that could double in the next several years -- Tao sees limitless potential. "Fundamentally, we're all pack rats," he said. "Intellibarter will allow us to shop out of each others garages."

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