BY IAN PANCHEVRE
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
“Of everything which we possess there are two uses,” Aristotle noted some 2,300 years ago. “One is the proper and the other, the improper or secondary use of it.” For Aristotle, the proper use of a shoe would be to wear it on your feet. Whereas the “improper” or “secondary” use of a shoe would be to exchange it for something else. “The same may be said of all possessions, for the art of exchange extends to all of them,” Aristotle continues.
Certainly, the Kyrgyz, a tribal group in Kyrgyzstan, would understand Aristotle’s sentiment. Among the Kyrgyz, horses are not only good for riding, but also for exchanging as their primary unit of currency. And when a deal can’t be done by exchanging an even number of horses? The Kyrgyz throw in some lambskins as change.
Despite the wisdom of Aristotle or the traditions of the Kyrgyz, barter economies haven’t been in fashion for several thousand years. There are obvious reasons why modern economies operate off a common currency. But one San Antonio startup is forcing a serious rethink of the full faith and credit we place in traditional currency.
“Money may not be the most efficient way to value things,” explains Steven Quintanilla, the founder and CEO of Kirpeep.com. “It’s funny because we have come so far as a society, but we still use an archaic system of exchange.”
Kirpeep, a recent recipient of a $25,000 investment from the Geekdom Fund, is an exchange engine. By tapping into a potentially vast and hidden market of exchange opportunities, “Kirpeep will do for exchange what Google did for search,” Quintanilla predicts.
The problem that Kirpeep is attempting to solve is one of measuring the value of an object or service, which is inherently subjective.
“Buying power and utility can be maximized via an economic system that is based off of what things are worth instead of what they cost,” Quintanilla elaborates. This sounds good in theory, but in practice a system needs to be established for enabling exchanges in an open market.
And that’s where Kirpeep comes in.
Kirpeep powers exchanges through a simple, four phase process. The Locate Phase involves identifying an exchange by searching or browsing for an “offer” that a user has posted, or an unmet “need” that another user can satisfy. Offers and needs can be either goods or services. Once a potential swap is identified, the users – more fondly known as Kirpeepers – message each other and begin a bargaining process in the Agree Phase. When an agreement has been reached, the two parties enter the Perform Phase, where the exchange occurs. Once the parties complete their obligations, the R2 Phase prompts each participant to rate and review the experience along four key metrics.
When asked for examples of exchanges on Kirpeep, Quintanilla fondly recounts the story of a web developer who traded his programming services with a local auto body shop. The auto body shop received a flashy new website. And the web developer? A 1986 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.
“I think it’s the future of a new economic system,” boasts Ana Rodriguez, a self-described power user who exchanged logo design work for a professional photo-shoot. “We are already witnessing a change in how we collaborate: people work online, many don’t even carry change and use their card to make purchases… I foresee many starting to embrace the barter/exchange/trade philosophy and Kirpeep will be the place for that.”
Kirpeep, an abbreviation of the phrase “keep it real people,” was conceived by Quintanilla back in 2008, while he was an undergraduate at MIT. While pursuing contract work, Quintanilla became frustrated with the lack of reliable platforms for exchanging services and goods with one another. The anonymous nature of Craigslist destroys accountability, rendering potential exchanges shady at best. Whereas Taskrabbit is narrow in focus, only allowing for odd job services in exchange for cash. After an extended period of revisiting the concept and tweaking the technology, Kirpeep publicly launched in November of 2012.
Early activity has been encouraging for Quintanilla and the Kirpeep team. Moreover, Quintanilla assures that an array of new features will be deployed in the near future. Kirpeep is currently looking for development and business talent to join the team. And Quintanilla hopes that a recently launched crowdsourcing campaign will secure more capital.
Although it may be a while until Kirpeep.com finds adoption in rural Kyrgyzstan, Quintanilla believes it’s only a matter of time until Kirpeep realizes its vision. Until then, Kirpeep will continue powering local exchanges, one after another.
Disclosure: Geekdom is a Sponsor of Silicon Hills News