Chinese-led ‘Craigslist’ gets funded
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