When Arrington first introduced the world to the concept of Zaarly two years ago, my first thought was “a fast, mobile way for me to request booze delivery on demand? Sign me up.” But my second and third and so on were: “Wait, why should I trust a stranger to do the job and actually show up? Isn’t this akin to a marketplace specializing in herding cats? Do I even like cats? Hello? Where are my pants?”
For those unfamiliar, Zaarly began as a mobile-focused “reverse Craigslist” service — in other words, a peer-to-peer marketplace in which local buyers could request nearly anything from local sellers. And people seemed intrigued. Smart people. After winning LA Startup Weekend, Zaarly almost immediately raised $1 million from a long list of notable investors (even “Steve jOBS”), and then raised $14 million more before the end of the year in a round led by Kleiner, while adding Meg Whitman to its board.
Fast forward to today and you’ll no longer find Zaarly’s marketplace on the web. And, with the next update to its mobile app, co-founder Bo Fishback tells us, its “request anything” model will disappear from the Zaarly experience completely. That means, not only has the concept with which it raised $14 million been put to bed in order to move in a new direction, but we’ve also learned that Zaarly co-founder Eric Koester left the company around the same time. (It also means no more this.)
Both Fishback and Koester say that the departure was amicable and “for the best,” but understandably a change of direction and the early whiff of attrition don’t exactly a success story make, so to speak. But the truth may be just the opposite — if not slightly more complicated.
The co-founders would prefer not to see Zaarly’s change of direction as a pivot — after all, “pivot” is a dirty word in Silicon Valley, often a synonym for “failure” — but they also have good reason for that.