Saving, investing and making money with technology

Day: November 21, 2015

The 18-year-old CEO who wants to change the way you buy and sell online

screen390x390After Jihad Kawas graduated from high school in his native Beirut, last spring he moved, not to a university dorm, but to San Francisco to follow his dream of running his own tech start-up.

Now, less than a year later he is the recipient of a $100,000 fellowship named after and chosen by Silicon Valley backer Peter Thiel.

“I was here in New York watching [the HBO show Silicon Valley] and there was this character who was giving out $100,000 for people to drop out of school or college and work on their businesses,” Kawas told Yahoo Finance. “I thought it was a joke. Four months later, I was telling this joke to someone in San Francisco. He didn’t laugh. He told me, ‘That’s not a joke, that’s real.’ I applied, and I made it.”

Some 3,000 applicants vie for one of Thiel’s fellowships, and since becoming one himself, Kawas has met with the mega-backer on multiple occasions.

The idea that won him the money is his company, Saily. It just released the second version of its app that allows users to buy and sell goods with others geographically close to them.

“We took the problems that are happening on online classified sites, say like Craigslist … and we make it way more easier and simpler and more social for people to actually interact on this platform,” Kawas said.

Rather than the eBay model of packing up sold goods and heading to the post office, Saily uses GPS to sell to people nearby. Buyer and seller meet to exchange the goods, and Saily aims to make sure it is done safely. Kawas says that is key to his idea that the marketplace can double as a social network, bringing people together in the app, but also in the real world.

Generally speaking, the business is fraught with potential issues, as competitors like Craigslist have found out the hard way. Saily attempts to circumvent those issues with technology. According to the company, “Saily detects hot items with very low prices, understands the text in their descriptions, and aggregates multiple factors to help determine if the user is a scam or not. Saily is focused on having only real quality content on the platform, hence Google images are not permitted either.”

Kawas says the company has 140,000 registered users in the U.S. and is growing at a rate of 1,000 new users per day. He hopes to hit a million by the middle of next year. Transactions are free for both the buyer and seller, as money is handled outside the app. Kawas says that may be the key to monetization going forward. “Potentially we can make money through in-app transactions.” Citing Paypal and Venmo as examples, the growing payment space will be key for Kawas to take his project from a Silicon Valley learning experience to a big money maker that can attract funding from others like his current benefactor.

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4 Ways To Follow the Money Trail Back From Your Purchases

money trail

When your money leaves your pocket, that doesn’t necessarily mean that has to be the end of your experiential transaction. Nope – if you want to learn more about finances and value flow, you can take it many steps further and really follow that money trail if you have the interest.

To do this, consider the four following categories of thought – check out the business snapshot of the vendor, follow the company blog if they have one, see what kind of social media promotion the company has, and then look into ownership details for further information and intrigue.

Check Out the Business Snapshot

You can check out a business snapshot and find out details of a company you just bought a product from. You can see when they started, where their main office is, what their major products lines are, and a whole bunch of other pertinent information in a few clicks of a few buttons. This is a good way to get to know companies better as well, because you may find out details that either make you like them more, or perhaps may give you a reason to try a different avenue for your next purchase.

Follow the Company Blog

And say you purchase a soda somewhere one day, and have an inkling to find out more about what the company stands for on a holistic level. A great way to get the information is by checking out the company blog. You might even be able to find coupons on their website as well, which means that not only do you get more information about where your money is going to, you also get to save money on your next transaction!

See What Company Social Media Promotes

In addition to having a blog, many companies have a solid social media presence. After you’ve purchased a product from somewhere, look at their profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and see what kind of things they promote. This is another great chance to look for more coupons and discounts as well. Sometimes you can sign up for newsletters through social media as well, which is a win-win for consumer and business.

Look Into Ownership Details

Finally, the last way to follow your money trail back to see where it goes is to see if a larger company owns the brand you’ve bought into. You’d be surprised how many products and brands owe their larger allegiance to gigantic companies that you wouldn’t think were interested in smaller markets, but because of supply, demand, and resource management, there’s all kinds of ownership intrigue that stretches all the way through the corporate and political levels.

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