Chi­nese-led ‘Craigslist’ gets funded

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

A Chi­nese-de­vel­oped chal­lenger to Craigslist and Wal­lapop has se­cured $30 mil­lion in new fund­ing as it cel­e­brates its first year in busi­ness this month.

5miles is a Dal­las- and Bei­jing­based mo­bile-app startup that has more than 5 mil­lion users, av­er­ag­ing 30,000 down­loads a day. Its goal is to be­come a ma­jor fac­tor in lo­cal clas­si­fied ad­ver­tis­ing, an area dom­i­nated by Craigslist.

“5miles is a com­mu­nity and not just a mar­ket­place,” Liang (Lu­cas) Lu, founder and pres­i­dent, said in an in­ter­view Tues­day. “We will use this fund­ing to ex­pand to other US cities.”

5miles cur­rently serves Austin, Dal­las, Hous­ton and San An­to­nio in Texas and also Mi­ami, Florida, and Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia.

Lu is a na­tive of Luoyang, He­nan prov­ince. Af­ter at­tend­ing col­lege on the main­land, he moved to the US, where he got a grad­u­ate de­gree in 2005 from South­ern Methodist Univer­sity in Dal­las.

He then worked at a se­ries of tech­nol­ogy- and e-com­merce­fo­cused po­si­tions with BlogDrive. com, Light­InThe­Box and Alibaba Group.

“At Alibaba, I was ex­posed to mo­bile and e-com­merce ap­pli­ca­tions,” Lu said. In 2014, he no­ticed that mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion was grow­ing rapidly in the US and Europe. “I stud­ied Craigslist and de­cided to do a sim­i­lar busi­ness,” he said.

Craigslist fea­tures free on­line mer­chan­dise list­ings but charges a fee for job list­ings, apart­ment-rental of­fer­ings and au­to­mo­bile ads in cer­tain cities. Many ob­serve r s b e l i e ve Craigslist played a big part in mak­ing the clas­si­fied ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tions of US news­pa­pers ob­so­lete. Lu said 5miles is dif­fer­ent from Craigslist in that it is mo­bile-based and of­fers a more ser­vice-ori­ented prod­uct. “We en­able you to take ad­van­tage of your smart­phone and com­mu­ni­cate with pic­tures, words, GPS and so­cial me­dia and in­stant mes­sag­ing in­stead of re­ly­ing on e-mail,” he said.

“We ver­ify users with a valid e-mail, phone num­ber and Face­book ac­count,” Lu said. Clients will also be able to ac­cess re­views on a user.

Buy­ers will not be al­lowed to sell pets, weapons or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals on 5miles, said Lu. 5miles does not charge buy­ers or sellers a fee and earns rev­enue from on­line ad­ver­tis­ing, he added.

“Right now we will use the lat­est fund­ing to fo­cus on US ex­pan­sion,” said Lu. “If that goes well, we will then look at Europe and maybe Brazil. We are let­ting Alibaba work on a China ap­pli­ca­tion.”

5miles has 15 em­ploy­ees in Dal­las for mar­ket­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion. The Bei­jing of­fice has 30 em­ploy­ees who work on en­gi­neer­ing and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment.

The lat­est fi­nanc­ing brings to­tal in­vest­ment in 5miles to more than $50 mil­lion. In its first year, 5miles gained 4 mil­lion users and gen­er­ated $1 bil­lion in gross mer­chan­dise vol­ume.

Liang (Lu­cas) Lu

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