Another Trade Me rival

Stuff reports:

A website developer’s 12-year labour of love has just gone live and is taking on .

Tim van Ameringen has spent more than 40,000 hours developing, a new low-cost auction and classified website, from his Dairy Flat man cave in North Auckland.

Site looks good,but success is not down to site design.

But it has also meant he’s kept costs down to hundreds of thousands rather than tens of millions like failed auction sites Wheedle and Sella.

This means big wins for users, as most will use the website for free.

It’s free to sign up, free to list products with one photo, and there is no selling fee.

The trouble is most people are not worried about the 8% fee on Trade Me (and yes I’m one of those annoyed at the increase). They worry about getting the maximum price.

Sellers will go to the site where the most buyers are, as more buyers can mean 50%, 60% more for what you sell. And buyers will go to the sites where they can find what they are looking for – ie where the most sellers are.

First mover advantage is huge for auction sites.

His website offers all the same categories except for three; books, electronic media and tickets and memorabilia, which are too difficult to deal with, van Ameringen says. 

Users may also be attracted to the site for its charity element.

Charitable trust Wings of Hope owns 45 per cent of 4tradeit and any profits will be spread back into the community to organisations such as Women’s Refuge.

Without promotion the site is already attracting 1000 users a day and 17 affiliated car dealers have around 1100 vehicles listed.

Van Ameringen is now hoping to attract more users and small businesses.

“If people find it can offer an alternative, then it has served its purpose,”  he says.

2,500 people on there at the moment. I wish it well, but I’m doubtful it will gain meaningful market share.

UPDATE: Some info I have been asked to add on by Tim van Ameringen

Balmoral Marketing/Karapiro spa:
The Te Whare Kariki Charitable Trust (now named the Wings of Hope Trust) purchased 2 chalets in the original Karapiro Spa development as an investment. The annual return for the investment was advertised as 10%.
When the developer (Henry Holt) went into receivership, Fiona and I were asked by three other investors who had lost their investment to join together and purchase the project from the receivers. Fiona and I agreed to do so, the purchase was made using a new company named Balmoral Marketing Ltd, and Fiona and I became a minority shareholder of this company. Two of the shareholders with a majority shareholding took control of the project. I was hospitalised with pericarditis (a stress related heart issue), and had no personal involvement in the project (we were shut out by secretive majority shareholders).

Approximately two years into the project, the project ran into financial difficulty and the two majority shareholders suggested I take on a Director role in Balmoral Marketing Ltd. I naively agreed to do so on the basis that all activities undertaken by the company would be transparent and best practice. Balmoral Marketing Ltd entered into a funding agreement with Prudential (a Christchurch based finance company) by way of a contributory mortgage for approximately $16.6m; this would have provided sufficient funds to complete the project. Prudential was successful in raising approximately $16.3m. However, due to the legislatively binding timeframe permitted for this type of funding facility to be filled, the end goal of $16.6m was not achieved. Without these funds, Balmoral Marketing Ltd was left with no option but to enter into voluntary receivership. This was one of the most difficult situations I have personally been involved in, knowing the lives that would be affected. Subsequently, Balmoral Marketing Ltd was liquidated, the two majority shareholders were both sentenced to jail for 6 years for their own personal financial dealings, I was absolved from any wrong doing by the liquidator (KPMG), and Fiona and I have since lived a quiet life, with a focus on our family and the building of 4tradeit.    


Wings of Hope Trust:
I originally set up the Wings of Hope Trust (formerly named The Te Whare Kariki Charitable Trust) for a Therapeutic boating project to help people with disabilities and mental ill health in the Auckland/Waitemata region. My background for 14 years was as the managing director of one of the early community mental health services in the Mt Eden, Auckland. Fiona is an occupational therapist who has a passion for helping people with disabilities. The ASB agreed to fund 50% of the project if the Trust could raise the balance. The Trust was unable to raise the required balance for the project to proceed. The Trust has purchased 45% of the 4tradeit Ltd shares, to be the vehicle for distribution of funds to NZ charities (as generated by the 4tradeit website). Independent Trustees will be added to the Trust when the Trust has a level of funds to distribute. Until this is achieved, there is little incentive for an independent Trustee(s) to invest their time in the Trust.


After reading the posts in this blog, I am a bit embarrassed to confirm that I have spent almost 13 years, and committed the amount of hours discussed … often working 12 to 16 hour days, 6-7 days per week (as hard as this may seem to believe) on the 4tradeit project. Fiona, my children and close friends can vouch for this.
When I started the 4tradeit project, I was 41 and the extent of my computer knowledge was how to use the basics of Microsoft word and excel. I am self-taught, without the benefit of colleagues to collaborate and bounce ideas off, and started without basic understanding of any coding language or of how to make or work with graphics. The original idea I had was to create an internet based search tool, to locate hard drive parts from around the world for an IT company I was a part owner in (Digital Recovery Ltd), hence the name ‘4 trade IT’. When we sold Digital Recovery Ltd, the idea changed to creating a trading website that could be used to raise money for local kiwi charities.

The core 4tradeit software is by a company called Geodesic Solutions. This company (over the last 13 years) has perfected the basic functionality coding required for an online auction to run smoothly. However, aside from the auction functionality, much of the other Geodesic software functionality is boutique and basic in nature. Together with the help of three other programmers, I have built a new ‘Items selling’ addon module called MyStuff. This module alone has taken two years to perfect, and still has some issues we are working on to get the module fully functional as I had envisaged it to work. The software has over 15 such addon modules that we have built.

Most of the issues raised in this blog we have fixed, including a change to new dedicated servers that now cost 20 times the annual cost of the old servers. The website is currently running well with few reported issues, and around 2700 members are enjoying using the website. 

Wheedle reportedly had 17 programmers and went through $18m before they closed down their trading website. I have so far spent $120,000 and my own sweat on 4tradeit, and we have lived on little personal income over the last 13 years. Building 4tradeit has many times felt like a long, fruitless journey, often a foolhardy one, and many time I have wanted to quit (maybe I should have … who knows). Anyway, here we are ….

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