We Interviewed Josh Kline About HaveNeed & Their Journey To Launching Their Platform, Finding Product Market Fit

Full Interview Transcription

Stephen:

Hello there. I'm Stephen from Artifact, and today I'm speaking with Josh Kline, the founder and CEO of Haveneed. Josh, it's great to have you on. How are you?

Josh Kline:

Very well, thank you, Stephen. How are you doing today?

Stephen:

I'm doing well. Thanks. So yeah, I want to get into some of the details, but first let's just get some of the more simple information out of the way. Can you tell us in a nutshell what it is that Haveneed does and what your sort of role as the founder and CEO looks like?

Josh Kline:

Sure. So the basics of Haveneed are that it is the first consumer multi-party barter platform for goods and services. It's mouthful, right? What Haveneed enables is for people to trade for goods and services using their own goods and skills as currency. We do that at a sort of hyper-efficient level through paths of technology.

Stephen:

All right. Well, can you maybe discuss it, or maybe tell us some of the current options out there for this type of thing and explain how Haveneed looks different and what it's going to change?

Josh Kline:

Sure. So there really isn't another platform that does what we do. So the current options in our space is really primarily the secondhand economy and the home services market. So secondhand economy is growing quite quickly. It started, you think about Craigslist and eBay, but that's evolving to include other options like Depop, which skews younger, or The RealReal or Offer Up. So there are a lot of options out there where people can exchange secondhand goods, but they're doing that with cash. There are also home services options, like Thumbtack and Home Advisor and TaskRabbit, things like that.

Josh Kline:

What doesn't exist today at any scale is a way to trade a good for a good or a service for a service. There's a pretty simple reason for that. It's an economics concept called the mutual coincidence of wants. So to trade something, you and I would need to have a mutual coincidence of wants. So I want something you have, and you want something that I have. If we don't share a mutual coincidence of wants, there is no trade. That has been the gating factor historically for barter. In fact, that's what got us away as a society or as humans from bartering back in ancient Egypt, or thereabouts, and led to the development of currency. So we needed a store of value because people didn't commonly have a mutual coincidence of wants.

Josh Kline:

We've attacked that gating factor by creating a platform that will connect multiple people in any one exchange so that no two people have to have directly offsetting haves and/or needs. So we are taking a vastly different approach to the exchange of goods and services than all of the other players in the secondhand economy or home services space.

Stephen:

Yeah. So if I understand correctly, basically the idea is that instead of needing to find someone who wants exactly what you have and has exactly what you want, everyone who uses this will be sort of part of a circle of people who are getting something that they need and providing something else to someone else. Eventually everyone's needs are being fulfilled. Do I have that right?

Josh Kline:

That's right. Yeah, it's sort of like the transit of property.

Stephen:

Right.

Josh Kline:

I can't turn my apple into a lime if you don't want an apple, but I can turn my apple into an orange into a lime if I have three people that each have an offsetting need.

Stephen:

Yeah. It's so interesting because, yeah, as you said, currency was invented as one solution to this problem and now we're hearing about another one. It's very interesting.

Josh Kline:

Yeah. Well, I'd like to add that currency does a pretty good job of this, so I don't expect that Haveneed will displace currency.

Stephen:

Sure.

Josh Kline:

I'm not insane. So sometimes you have to pay your utility bill or your car payment or your rent, but there are a lot of transactions for which you don't actually have to pay currency. You have some things or some skills and you need some other things or some services. Globally, there are billions of people around the world that have smartphones and internet service, but little or no cash. For those people, the ability to use their own goods and skills as currency is life changing.

Stephen:

Yeah. I think you're alluding to this, but just to sort of lay it out. So what would you say the advantage is? Why might someone go to Haveneed instead of Facebook Marketplace or eBay or something like that?

Josh Kline:

Sure. Sure. So sort of take a step back and look at this whole secondhand economy. There's a spectrum of value in that secondhand economy. It goes from at the low end of things that you just don't want in your possession anymore and you may not want to throw them away. So there's definitely a push towards a more sustainable way of living. For God's sake, we need to be pushing towards a more sustainable way of living. So I may not want to throw this thing out. I don't want to see it go to a landfill and this thing is probably useful for somebody else in my community and I'd like to connect with that person and provide it. At the other end of the spectrum are things for which we may not have a need anymore, but we ascribe monetary value to them, and at a level that we would want to get cash back out of that item. Maybe a watch or a pair of shoes or just some electronic equipment of a higher value.

Josh Kline:

You just either need or want the cash. Everything in between those two sides of the spectrum could be considered something that you might want to trade for. For instance, just for goods, not talking about services right now, but you have this good. You don't need it anymore. You don't really need the cash for it, but you're not going to give it away. So what could you get an exchange for it? That's where we fit in. You either know some things that you want and we we'll make those connection points, or you could list something that you have without knowing what you want, and we'll tell you all the things in the marketplace that you could potentially get in exchange for the thing you already have.

Stephen:

Okay. Interesting. So actually if you just put something on there, and you're like, I want to get rid of this, you can actually go in and see what you might be able to get for it.

Josh Kline:

Yeah. So it's almost gamifying bartering. It's not just directly, I have this and I need this and this is the only transaction I'm looking for. If you list haves and needs, those are the first transactions that we will present in our app because we have more data points about the different things you have and need. So that's what we want to present to you first. But we will also present to you, through this sort of wild card matching capability, if you're not interested in the things we're offering up, here are other things you can get. Or if you don't list any needs and you've only listed haves or vice versa, we'll show you the potential options for you.

Stephen:

That's cool. There's a world of possibilities out there, I would think.

Josh Kline:

Yeah. I've always thought there are things ... You may list a need for something and you think you don't have anything, but we all have stuff. It could be in a storage unit, could be in your garage, could be on a shelf behind you, and you may not have thought it was something of value, but the old phrase one person's trash is another's treasure holds true here.

Stephen:

Yeah. So I wanted hear a little bit about where you are as a company. How old is this company? What stage are you in and when is your official launch?

Josh Kline:

Sure. So I thought of this concept eight years ago.

Stephen:

Oh, wow.

Josh Kline:

So this is not an overnight thing that we just decided to go for and, couple weeks later, we're in the app store. I thought of it. I wasn't on it eight years ago, but I did start thinking about the concept and how it would work. I was working for another firm at the time. Three years into kind of fleshing out the concepts and starting to do some wire framing and have some interviews with people and get a lot of feedback, I actually thought at that point, which would be five years ago, there was some there there essentially, that this had a fighting chance to work. Didn't mean it was going to be easy by any chance, but it had a fighting chance to work.

Josh Kline:

I thought that it was worth trying, just on the concept of this could really deliver impact at global scale to people that could use it. It could also be a company that could be a successful company financially. So those two things are often at odds with one another. I thought that what Haveneed does and is could sort of ride that razor's edge of being successful and impactful at the same time. So I left my job five years ago and I had been working on this full time since. Well, I have a number of investors that have helped me along the way. I've invested personally into it, and I've got a number of investors that have joined me on this journey.

Josh Kline:

I'm a solo founder. I've had partners along the way that have filled in the gaps and provided valuable support, but I am the founder and CEO. So we are sort of a virtualized and globally distributed company and we are at the place ... so we raised a couple of rounds of funding and we are in the US iOS app store as of this week. So what's today? May 9th.

Stephen:

Yeah.

Josh Kline:

  1. If somebody's listening to this in the future, May 9th, 20, 22, we are in the US app store and we are going to start doing some PR around this this week. So very exciting times.

Stephen:

Yeah. Congratulations. That's really cool. I didn't realize that this was the big week actually. In terms of that PR that you mentioned, can you share a little bit about how Paul Clean at Pitch It is helping you guys with this launch?

Josh Kline:

Sure. So I was lucky enough to be introduced to Paul through a fellow founder of mine who I'm friendly with. So I started talking to Paul a couple of months ago about what we were trying to accomplish and frankly, our budgetary constraints as well. So we're not a venture funded startup where we're quite early on. We would be considered a [inaudible 00:11:52] startup. So, unique budgetary constraints early on. The vast majority of funding that I've brought in has gone to engineering, but we've got to offset that or supplement that with marketing so that people understand that this thing is out there. So I connected with Paul. I thought he had a great understanding of the marketing process and had a really delivered bang for the buck to build up my awareness among my likely consumers. So that is what we're working on over the past couple of weeks, as we prepared to get into the launch and then really get the flywheel turning and get the word out.

Stephen:

Gotcha. Actually, the question occurs to me. You say our likely consumers. I guess that's pretty broad group of people. How do you identify that? Who do you think those groups are?

Josh Kline:

It becomes kind of a ... it almost sounds like a crazy answer to the question, because in the broadest way it's, well, Haveneed works for anyone who has more than they need or needs more than they have. It's true. It could be anybody. So Haveneed, it just depends the lens you're looking through the value you'll derive from using it. Then we look into subsets of people who are likely users and a lot of that functionality in the app was built around my own experiences, my own community, and then spreading out to my broader network and having those interviews with people and understanding how they would use the app. The more people I talk to, the more use cases I understand and learn about.

Josh Kline:

So we look at very likely consumers and I fit into this first bucket, which would be parents of growing children. I have a 17 year old son. He's grown from nothing to somebody who's taller than I am, and he's an athlete. So he has churned through an awful lot of athletic equipment while growing up. Sometimes he may ... he's a tennis player, so sometimes he may use a pair of tennis shoes or a racket a couple of times before he moves onto something else. That equipment is certainly in pretty good shape and useful for other people. It's just not useful for him anymore. Another example would be skiing equipment. Don't use it all that often. Might only get one season out of it. Then the next year we've got to buy new stuff for him. So all of a sudden with our own community and other parents we're talking to, we're able to then kind of, Hey, you can use his last year's ski equipment because your kids smaller. Then we're asking for stuff from parents of older kids.

Stephen:

Yeah.

Josh Kline:

Well, that builds up these use cases. Then we learn how to accommodate those use cases in the app and make those sort of user journeys inside of the app simple. So what we do is quite complicated. We just have to make it very easy to the end user. So a big bucket of end users are likely going to be parents of growing kids. You have other likely users that would be financially displaced people. We've just come through a global pandemic, and a lot of people around the world are still hurting very badly. These are people that have smartphones and they have stuff, but they don't have any money. They have very little money. In fact, there's a statistic I cite pretty frequently, which was an article published in Forbes. Before the pandemic, detailed how nearly two out of three Americans could not absorb a $500 emergency without going into debt. They just couldn't pay for a $500 emergency.

Josh Kline:

So I've always felt pretty confident that 100% of those people would barter.

Stephen:

Yeah.

Josh Kline:

They don't have any money, but they have stuff. So it's a way to acquire important goods and services without cash. So financially displaced parents of grown children, especially athletes, because they churn through equipment so much. Collectors have always been known to barter. If you think back, I'm of a generation that remembers why they're called trading cards, because you'd crack open the cards and you and your friends would sit around and trade them. So we can do that. We can enable people to trade collectibles.

Josh Kline:

You think about the world we live in now, 2022, the rise of web three and the rise of cryptocurrency. Well that accomplishes similar tasks in a very different way. It does it with a different type of currency that oftentimes can be environmentally destructive, and we can accomplish that task. There are benefits to that. It's not just that they're destroying the environment. There are benefits to web three, but we accomplish a different way of acquiring goods without cryptocurrency. We use your own goods as currency.

Stephen:

Yeah. It sounds like it's in many ways, much simpler for the user and all of the complexity is just what you and your engineers have to work out.

Josh Kline:

Yeah. You don't need a digital wallet. You don't need to learn about the fundamentals of web three and cryptocurrency to buy and sell. You don't need to know what the blockchain is or how to access its benefits in order to exchange things with us. So it's just ... and frankly, I started this before anybody who was talking about the blockchain, and then we were having conversations and people recommending we take a look at how we do this on the blockchain. There are ways we intend to implement blockchain benefits and functionality as we go, but we just haven't seen a reason why we would want to architect our solution to be a decentralized platform.

Stephen:

Yeah.

Josh Kline:

Or why it would need to be on the blockchain for its core functionality. I look at things like item providence would be a great use of blockchain functionality on Haveneed, but in terms of the trading itself, it is never sort of percolated up as being a core requirement. So we are not a blockchain based solution.

Stephen:

Yeah, makes sense. So you said, it's live on the app store. How can people get started and what is the cost to get started?

Josh Kline:

So not unlike a number of other new mobile app driven marketplaces over the last couple of years. It's a free app. At some point, we'll monetize how we conduct business, but our core goal right now is to sort of alter consumer behavior in a way that people are comfortable trading instead of buying. So, we need to prove that human beings in the year 2022 will barter. That's the hurdle we have to clear right now.

Stephen:

Yeah.

Josh Kline:

I've spoken to enough people, and I see enough stories from around the world, where communities are turning to barter in localized ways that I know there's a demand for it out there. So, I believe that Haveneed is filling a void in the market. So we're not going to charge anything for some time. It could be next year before we charge for anything, but the app is in the iOS app store now. So it's Apple iOS first. Our goal is to have the Android app out by the end of this year. To find us, our website is haveneed.org. You can go there, you can sign up for our updates. We'll keep you updated on new territories and new platforms. Or you can just go to the iOS app store and type in, haveneed, one word, and that should take you right to us.

Stephen:

All right. Well, I want to thank you for coming on and sharing this idea. It's exciting to think about, and it is an exciting time for your company. We generally end by asking, what's in store for this next year. What are you excited about for this year? Is there anything that you're planning to roll out, or just new new projects or whatever. I think you've already covered what's exciting about this current moment, but is there anything else you want to say about kind of where you guys are headed?

Josh Kline:

Yeah. The important things for us, and these are time and resource issues. So the important things for us are expanding our available user base by getting the Android app out next, because that'll roughly double our potential user base. Then next would be to offer the app in more territories. So we'll follow up with English language because that avoids a bunch of localization issues. So that would be primarily Canada, the UK and Australia would be the next territories. Then we would hope to expand internationally in non English language speaking territories because we know the demand is out there.

Stephen:

Yeah. Well, it's a very exciting thing to think about, as I said. Josh, thanks again for coming on and sharing this. I look forward to following Haveneed's progress over the next few years.

Josh Kline:

Thank you very much. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to talk about it with you.