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Bike, pram or campervan, it’s all about your tribe

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By Jason Wyatt, Co-Founder & Managing Director – Marketplacer

There’s a common misconception many people have about tech-based companies, which is that it’s all about the tech.

It’s an understandable enough assumption to make, for example, that Marketplacer is a company that creates a technology and business platform for marketplaces. (And we’re very good at that.)

But that’s sort of the surface view of what we do. In our case, what the software we create is really about is bringing people together – it’s about tribes.

There’s a fantastic TED Talk by Seth Godin about tribes and how all it takes to bring people together to form a tribe is a leader: “What tribes are is a very simple concept that goes back 50,000 years – it’s about leading and connecting people and ideas.

The tribes that wandered the Earth 50,000 years ago were no doubt pretty different to the tribes we see today, but there’s an underlying truth that remains: tribes are communities of shared interest. The shared interest back then probably had more to do with hunting down the next meal, whereas these days we have tribes that share interest and kinship around all sorts of things. So something like Marketplacer is a very new technology drawing on a very old and very human idea – tribes.

One of the incredible things about the evolution of the internet and online activity has been the way people have been able to find and create their own tribes. The ability to connect with people in your neighbourhood and across the globe instantaneously, to exchange information, to share ideas, has meant what once were niche interests now have the infrastructure (internet, ecommerce, social media, etc) to scale and become massive worldwide cultural movements and markets.

In the course of my regular work day I will usually check in on one or more of our marketplaces, and it never ceases to amaze me how devoted people are to their tribe. The cyclists on Bike Exchange, the mums and dads on tinitrader, the campers on Outdoria, the homemakers on House of Home are all totally into their thing, with the one common factor being their passion. As Seth Godin said, the longing to be part of a community is an important part of our makeup.

Of course we’re not members of just the one tribe. A middle-aged male in lycra (MAMIL) might also be a doting dad, who possibly enjoys heading out bush for a camping trip with his mountain bike in tow. That’s three tribes right there: cycling, parenting and camping. He might just also happen to be a teacher, in which case he keeps up with that tribe too, possibly through professional forums or on LinkedIn.

Tribes can be fluid, we move in and out of some, while others are more permanent. Being a parent and being involved in all that goes on in your child’s life can be an all-consuming thing, especially up until your child is independent enough to stand on their own two feet. Being an obsessive fan of a particular band might just be something that lasts intensely for a few years before the fire dies out, you’re part of that tribe but move on maybe when you’re a littler older. You find a new tribe.

In terms of the evolution of the internet, and how it relates to online retail, it’s no longer about being everything to everybody. You have to find your tribe, build it and lead it. People want to connect and be recognised. The concept is not new – it’s just that we have the technology now to make it happen in new and wonderful ways.


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