Mr. Rothman says that other e-commerce companies have made it too time-consuming and complex for sellers to list items and for shoppers to find what they want. To smooth such transactions, Glyde will, among other things, supply sellers with a stamped, pre-addressed envelope once their item has been bought.
Glyde is backed by $6 million from investors including Charles River Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Boston.
The company’s approach faces inherent challenges. The market is dominated by eBay and its somewhat forgotten media-focused site, Half.com. Then there is Amazon.com, which this year began allowing people to trade in used video games and DVDs for store credit.
To ensure a broad selection of items on the site, Glyde will have to attract a critical of mass of sellers who, at least at first, would have a better chance of success on established sites. Then it must lure buyers who are more familiar with the competition.
Mr. Rothman said his target market was people who had never sold items on the Internet because it was too difficult. “We want the middle-aged Midwestern soccer mom to easily be able to buy and sell her stuff,” he said. “It’s a pretty straightforward ambition.”
Glyde’s approach is to attract people using a slick, uncluttered Web site that cuts many steps out of the e-commerce process.
Using the site’s catalog of products, sellers indicate the item they want to offer and specify its condition. They do not have to upload a photo or type in a product description. The site suggests the market value; if the seller adjusts the price, they are told how many cheaper items are ahead of theirs in the queue.
Buyers, on the other hand, see only one listing for each product and never learn the identity of the seller. Unlike on eBay, there are no feedback scores, a measure of a seller’s reliability that many online shoppers have become accustomed to consulting.
Behind the scenes, Glyde determines which seller will fulfill a purchase by calculating the best price and the fastest delivery time, and by assessing the quality of each seller, including how responsive they have been in past transactions.
Glyde takes a 10 percent fee on each completed purchase, and charges $1.25 to the seller for the envelope.
Buyers pay by credit card, and Glyde keeps the money until the buyer receives the item and indicates satisfaction with it. “If a buyer’s money is not in the seller’s hands until the buyer is happy,” Mr. Rothman said, “it’s much harder to game the system.”
Mr. Rothman conceded that people could list stolen or bootlegged items. And buyers could conceivably get a CD, copy it and then indicate they were unhappy with the transaction to avoid paying. He said Glyde would monitor people’s behavior for unusual patterns.
Van L. Baker, a vice president at the research firm Gartner who was briefed on the company, said: “A lot of thought went into this site. The challenge for them is going to be getting a big enough marketplace of products to put in front of people.”