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How to know if Flex is the right fit for your marketplace idea

The purpose of this article is to give you a general overview of whether Flex is a good solution for building your specific marketplace idea.

Marketplaces

Flex is a software solution for building marketplaces. Marketplaces are platforms that match supply and demand and typically facilitate transactions between them. The operator of the marketplace typically doesn't own the inventory but instead invites a large number of providers to offer their services to their customers through the marketplace.

Flex is not the right solution if your idea is to build an e-commerce store for selling products. Flex is also not the right fit if your concept is a discussion forum or a social network.

Flex focus: services, rentals, events

Flex has been built specifically for marketplace ideas focused on selling services, renting products or spaces, or buying tickets to events and experiences.

These marketplaces can be either C2C ("Customer-to-Customer", also called peer-to-peer – individuals selling to other individuals), B2C ("Business-to-Customer", businesses selling to individuals) or B2B ("Business-to-Business", businesses selling to other businesses), or any combination of them. Your Flex marketplace can be a website or a mobile app or even have both.

With Flex, you can build your own marketplace that is similar to, for example, one of these popular platforms:

  • Airbnb – short term apartment rentals (C2C, B2C)
  • EatWith – book seats to dinner parties organized by home cooks (C2C, B2C)
  • EquipmentShare – rent construction equipment (B2B)
  • Fiverr – hire freelance designers, developers, or other knowledge workers (B2C)
  • Getaround – rent cars from people around you (C2C)
  • Handy – find a home cleaner or a handyman (B2C)
  • Rover.com – find a pet sitter or a dog walker (C2C, B2C)
  • Storefront – rent retail space from other businesses (B2B)
  • Treatwell – book appointments with hairdressers and beauty professionals (B2C)
  • UrbanSitter – find a babysitter (B2C)

For now, Flex is not a good solution for building a marketplace to sell physical products. So, if you're building the next Amazon or Alibaba for retailers, or something like eBay or Etsy for individuals, Flex is not the right solution for you.

Regular marketplaces and reverse marketplaces

A typical service, rental or event marketplace has the following workflow: first, the service providers build their profiles and list their service offerings. The customers search the site, browse and compare different providers, choose the one they like, book a slot from their calendar, and pay. Alternatively, the customer might contact one of the providers (or several of them) and start a negotiation process to determine the final price. This is how all the 10 popular marketplaces listed above work. Flex has been built to support these use cases.

Some marketplaces have another kind of workflow, which can be called a "reverse marketplace". Popular reverse marketplaces include Thumbtack and Upwork.

In these marketplaces, it's the providers who do the searching. The customers start by creating a post that describes their requirements. The service providers browse these posts and bid on some of them. The customer then chooses one of the bids and starts working with the provider in question, eventually making a payment based on the invoice they provide.

If you're building a reverse marketplace, Flex is not (yet) the right fit for you. This workflow is quite different from the regular marketplace, and it affects the entire design of your platform.

To learn more about the differences between regular and reverse marketplaces, take a look at an article on how to design the booking flow of your service marketplace.

Country support

You can use Flex in any country around the world. However, if you want Flex to process online payments your platform and all your providers need to be in one of the countries supported by Stripe (excluding "invite only" countries). You can have customers in countries that Stripe doesn't support, but if providers need to receive money from your platform, they have to be in a Stripe-supported country.

In the future, it will likely be possible for you to integrate a payment gateway of your choice to Flex, but this is not possible yet.

Are you ready for Flex?

If you've read everything above and concluded that your marketplace concept matches the focus of Flex, there's one more thing to consider: are you currently at a stage where you need Flex?

You need to do some custom development work to launch your marketplace with Flex. If you're a developer or have one in your team, you can do this yourself. If that's not the case, you need to hire a developer to do this work. In this case, the minimum budget for building your MVP (Minimum Viable Platform) with Flex is around $5,000 (and depending on your exact requirements, the cost could be a lot more). Typically, it takes 1–2 months from the day you start development to launch your MVP.

If you're not ready to invest in hiring a developer, Flex is not the right solution for you. Instead, you could try out Sharetribe Go, which is free to test for the first 30 days, and after that its pricing starts at $79 per month. With Sharetribe Go, you can build your MVP in one day, without technical skills. It doesn't have the same flexibility than Flex, but in many situations, it can be a good way to get started quickly and to validate your business idea.

If you have already tried Sharetribe Go and concluded that it's not enough for your needs, then it might be time to get started with Flex. In that case, you can continue by reading about how to build and launch your marketplace with Flex.

If you have more specific questions on whether Flex can support certain features or workflows before getting started, contact Sharetribe support or book a call with one of Sharetribe's founders to discuss your concept.