HipSwap wants to be a Craigslist for the Pinterest set

Second-hand stuff has never looked so sexy. Thanks to a redesign rolling out Thursday, HipSwap, an online marketplace for local goods, is now like a Craigslist re-imagined for Fab and Pinterest fans: Lots of pictures, curated collections, a personalized experience and the ability to socialize every item on the site.
Rob Kramer, the company’s co-founder and CEO, put it this way: “If Craigslist and Pinterest had a baby – that’s HipSwap.”
Since the site’s launch in March, he said, it’s expanded to cities nationwide, amassed more than $21 million worth of merchandise and attracts about one million monthly unique visitors. He declined to provide user numbers but said the user population is in the six figures and grows 2 to 3 percent a day. The site has also raised about $1.1 million in seed funding from Greycroft Partners, Founders Fund and others.
After bad experiences on eBay (s EBAY) and Craigslist, Kramer said he and his co-founder Andrew Skinner created the site to give people an easy, enjoyable way to sell goods online. Items can be new or old, from people’s homes or local vintage and secondhand shops, but he said the goal is a marketplace for “unique inventory at the neighborhood level.” It gives the hipster in Brooklyn a way to buy things from people her area, as well as Chicago, Los Angeles and neighborhoods across the country.
HipSwap overlaps with Etsy in that both marketplaces allow people to sell vintage goods, but Kramer said some Etsy sellers are finding they can sell certain things on HipSwap that they can’t sell on Etsy because HipSwap doesn’t focus on handmade items.
“We want to own the virtual supply chain for the secondary market of goods,” he said.
Sellers can take pictures of their stuff with HipSwap’s iPhone (s AAPL) or Android (s GOOG) app and then upload them to the website, where they can price, title and post their listings in their own online shop for free. Buyers can receive the items via meetups, shipping or delivery (but only if they live in Los Angeles in New York).
The site released several new features today, including:

  • Gilt Groupe-like flash sales that last for 72 hours and offer products in a dedicated category, such as art or fashion.
  • The ability to personalize user experiences by giving them the option to “Hip or Skip” items. It’s like Pandora’s thumbs up or down feature and lets the site create a customized marketplace that reflects their preferences.
  • The option to tweet their collections, poll Facebook (s FB) friends for opinions or pin collections on Pinterest.
  • An easy way to donate to charity. Every Saturday, HipSwap says it will pick up unwanted goods from users and deliver them to Goodwill for free.
  • A quick way to cross-post on Craigslist. With one click, HipSwap sellers can post their items on Craigslist to share their more visual listings (and give HipSwap a bit of promotion).

As someone who loves to find great stuff locally and secondhand (I confess that I’ve even restored a coffee table found on my street), I appreciate the HipSwap idea. And I’m all for a Craigstlist-like marketplace that’s more visual and easier to use. But it will be interesting to see what happens to the site as it grows. Craigslist and eBay struggled to preserve their cultures when they got bigger. As Etsy scales, that’s an issue it’s grappling with as well.
I also wonder about what happens to the quality of goods as more people join. HipSwap bills itself as a way to discover “what’s inside the most fabulous closets, homes and shops in your neighborhood.” But that means a lot of secondhand items, not all of which may look as good in real life as they do online. The social, curation and personalization tools give sellers incentives to present goods that will help them build an audience on the site. And Kramer said sellers need to post the condition of the items. But, for buyers, it’s still hard to gauge the true condition of something from a picture and written report. To prevent the sale of fake goods, Kramer said they’ll be adding a verification process for brand-name items in the next couple of months.
The site doesn’t just want to be known for ease of use or beautiful design, he said, “One of our main goals is to be the most credible marketplace.”