On November 21, 2010, MarketYoYo (formerly named Crowdmarket) was awarded "Most Likely to Change a Million Lives" and "2nd Prize Overall" at Women 2.0 Startup Weekend. Two days later, Alexis Ringwald (pictured, left) and Xuwen Zhang expanded their team to five (Rajat Mahajan, Ran Tao and myself) to further build on the idea of an SMS service to enable BOP (Base of the Pyramid) female entrepreneurs to connect directly with buyers. I was really excited to be a part of the team and loved the way all five of us were able to rally around a cause just after our first meeting at a coffee shop. With very little time but a lot of talent, inspiration, and passion, we decided to pursue the mWomen BOP App Challenge.
A week after initial market research, brainstorming and coding, the idea turned more real after we had conversations with Grameen Phone CEO Kazi Islam, Obopay CEO Carol Realini and VP of Product Marketing David Schwartz. The end goal was to build an easy-to-use SMS-based mobile service that enables female entrepreneurs in rural India to connect directly with buyers in an online marketplace, which we named "MarketYoYo".
Through a basic SMS message, a woman without internet connectivity can post information about her products and prices to the MarketYoYo.com website. Buyers can then use the search feature on the website to find a product and contact the seller directly to complete the transaction. Toward the end of the development of MarketYoyo, we were able to integrate the service with mobile payment providers to further ease the exchange.
After two weeks, we turned in the working demo to the mWomen BOP App Challenge and on December 8, Alexis presented MarketYoYo to TedxBayArea TEDWomen in Palo Alto. It was really neat to share our story to an audience that consisted of over 100 dynamic and passionate women. The environment was the perfect place to explore the idea with other seasoned entrepreneurs and we were able to get some great feedback regarding the solution from folks at the event who wanted to collaborate with us. Although I was only able to attend an hour and a half of the event, I'm eager to continue to build upon these conversations and partnerships within the coming weeks.
The journey has been an amazing one so far thanks to Startup Weekend, Women 2.0 and TedxBayArea TEDWomen for providing an outlet to turn the idea of MarketYoYo into something real. What’s next? We are now ready to improve women’s lives in rural villages of India.
This guest blog post was authored by Heena Patel for Team MarketYoYo (pictured below).
About the guest blogger: Heena Patel is a new resident of San Francisco and project manager / IT consultant within the biotechnology industry. She enjoys learning about the intersections between technology, social innovation and women's issues. Her recent leadership positions include Director of Marketing and Communications for a non-profit youth leadership program, Riordan Programs Alumni Association and Board Intern for a social enterprise organization, Working Wardrobes which empowers women in crises to enter the workforce. Heena graduated from UC Irvine with a B.S. in Information and Computer Science and a minor in Management.