While the world is really big, I am told that people all over the world are inherently the same. Take school for example: You have the class clowns, geeks, and jocks in any society, tempered, of course, by societal norms.
It doesn’t matter what language you speak, or what time zone you wake up in every day, people, cross-culture, enjoy collecting things. Each person does it with a different goal in mind: whether for cultural significance, personal symbolism, a desire to live vicariously through inanimate objects which have been places that you only dream of, mementos of places that you have been, or even as a financially lucrative hobby.
The Internet has long aided hobbyists and collectors of the long tail, either as a shopping center or as a forum for trade of items with other like-minded individuals from all over the world. But most of the sites are simply poor translations of offline interactions. The sites simply allow the collectors to list their collectibles. This is not so earth-shattering, as the first database I programmed at age 9 (in FoxPro) was a listing of all my baseball cards.
Colnect, the one-man Israeli startup that won Europe’s 2009 Startup 2.0 competition last week in Bilbao, Spain, is different. It’s sole purpose is creating a more efficient platform for collectible collectors to interact intelligently.
The founder, Amir Wald, achieves this in many ways.
To start: The catalog is completely user-generated. Similar to Wikipedia or Flickr, there is an extremely active core community who adds hundreds of items (currently in coins, phonecards, and stamps). Then, with one click simplicity, users are able to create three separate lists. The first is a database of what you have. The second is a list of what you want. The third is a list of what you are willing to trade.
A fully functioning social network, Colnect allows people to “friend” each other, and also give eBay-esque feedback on successful (or unsuccessful) trades. Colnect then automagically matches people up, via a dual analysis of both the user’s wish lists and the social trust filters.
This is an extremely Israeli sort of startup. Amir is a computer science graduate, who, upon leaving a position programming in a Forex company, decided to spend 2.5 years traveling in Asia and South America. He speaks 12 languages poorly, and 3 fluently. He then applied what he learned about people in different cultures to the site. Available in over 36 languages, Colnect is a platform that allows people to interact even if they don’t speak the same language. He talks regularly with his community members to ascertain what each country requires.
Like most Israelis who abhor conventional wisdom, Amir asserts that the world is really small. And he believes that through bringing people together, it has the possibility to get a lot smaller.