Web-based forums for auto, sport and hobby enthusiasts aren’t exactly known for being tech-savvy. But these forums are an essential part of mobile marketplace Panjo’s business model. Panjo partners with communities where enthusiasts hang out (like BMW enthusiast site Bimmerforums.com, for example) to provide a niche alternative to eBay and Craigslist and a better way to negotiating via a forum.
Finding its sweet spot in such a specialized market took some adjusting: at first, Panjo was aimed at facilitating group buys (when a discount only applies when a group of buyers purchase). But managing group buys in MINI Cooper, Porsche, and Acura NSX enthusiast communities “clarified the larger opportunity of helping facilitate all peer-to-peer commerce within enthusiast communities,” CEO and co-founder Chad Billmyer said. After about a year of iteration and going through Santa Monica’s MuckerLab, the seven-person Panjo team is turning its attention to mobile and maturing Panjo’s mobile app beyond beta.
“Panjo seeks to address some of the more painful things about selling gear out of your garage like collecting payment, packaging the item, and shipping it,” Billmyer said. “We look forward to helping a seller manage the entire workflow of selling a good from his mobile device.”
A $1.6 million round led by Spark Capital last year is helping to fuel Panjo’s mobile strategy - and the local LA tech community is doing its part to grow Panjo, too. The number of auto ventures in SoCal is a huge plus for the company (because automotive is a huge category for Panjo) and forum software platform vBulletin, which is owned by El Segundo-based Internet Brands, is right around the corner.
“It is great to have that Internet stalwart in our backyard,” Billmyer said. “Thinking to our network of advisors, we benefit from the advice of the alumni of Cooking.com, Shopzilla, Green Dot, Edmunds, Newegg, StyleHaul, CampusExplorer, HauteLook, MySpace and many other local tech ventures.”
With the help of its network, Panjo is growing internally and externally: it is looking to beef up its own team on the community managerment, content and .NET/c# and iOS development sides as it takes its place as the top marketplace for enthusiasts: “Panjo's marketplace continues to grow at a rapid rate. We are focused on prioritizing features that simplify, secure, and accelerate the buying and selling processes for the auto, sport, and hobby experts that connect with one another at Panjo.”