Let's Make Robots!

Would an LMR Marketplace work?

This past weekend I thought a lot about a separate entity that would run the commercial side of LMR. Very like how Adafruit.com represents a company,and Ladyada.com is a supporting community site.

I have an idea for an LMR Marketplace that I think would allow a commercial side to LMR, that stays true to the spirit of LMR.

The LMR Marketplace would be an e-commerce back end that would provide a market for LMR members to promote and sell their designs. If you look around LMR right now, you will find there are many good designs and members trying to sell on their own in a limited way. (Krumlink, CtC, Ro-Bot-X, propellerheadgeek, brooksware2000, etc.)

What if there was a place where they could bring their products to market, and take advantage of the popularity of LMR? The LMR Marketplace would provide robot hobbyists a place to shop for products designed and tested by other robot hobbyists. Products they wouldn't find on SparkFun or Solarbotics.

The LMR Marketplace would take a cut of revenues to cover costs and maybe even make a profit. I don't have all of it figured out, but I have lots of thoughts around how this can benefit LMR as a community and as a commercial company, as well as providing a great place for hobbyists to buy.
In true LMR fashion, I decided to share my idea in the Shout Box and see what people thought. Here's a chronological transcript, with minor editing to clean it up and remove unrelated posts.
ignoblegnome: Hey, Krumlink. With all of your wonderful designs, would you ever want to set up an online store?
Krumlink: Except have purchase links and stuff!
Krumlink: Yes I have ig, very much :)
ignoblegnome: @Krumlink: What would you think about an LMR marketplace, where LMRians could bring their products to market?
Krumlink: That sounds like a great idea, if only we could get it on the LMR website. I could manage it...
ignoblegnome: It's an idea I thought up this weekend. A commercial side to the LMR community. Robot stuff designed by LMRians.
theandroidman: I would go for that Ig
Krumlink: Wouldn't we want a separate website dedicated to that stuff? and just have LMR Link to it?
ignoblegnome: Yes, a separate commerical site, but associated with LMR.
ignoblegnome: Different rules on the commerical site, since it would try to be a profit making venture.
Krumlink: LMRproducts?
Krumlink: LMRkits?
Krumlink: LMRCommercial?
Krumlink: LMRCC?
ignoblegnome: LMRMarketplace or 'letsbuyrobots.com'
Cactus: Keep the ads to a minimum - I hate reading the Make blog and effectively getting ads for products in their store.
ignoblegnome: How about LMR Bucks... credit for your own product sales, so you can buy other LMR stuff?
Cactus: In fact, I'd like to make a profit one day, just to see what it's like!
ignoblegnome: Right. The idea is to have a separate entity, so LMR stays a community, and never becomes a shop.
JoeBTheKing: If you do a store you should make only LMRers able to post products so we don't just get a copy of store catologs there.
ignoblegnome: There have been many designs created, reviewed, and refined on LMR. This would help members find a market for them.
ignoblegnome: Some folks already have their own web-shops, but a common marketplace would provide much more exposure.
theandroidman: real nice if you wanna build waht you saw somebody else do too...
ignoblegnome: @Joe: Yes, this would be primarily for LMR member developed stuff. Things you wouldn't find on SparkFun or Solarbotics.
JoeBTheKing: That would be nice.
ignoblegnome: Right. I like Adafruit's open hardware attitude. Most people post all you need on LMR to do it youself, but some would buy them.
theandroidman: lots of people have fab capabilities to make special parts too
JoeBTheKing: Like 3d printers, laser cutters, etc.?
ignoblegnome: True. Though mostly not for big quantities. But as a group we could negotiate good deals for fabrication.
jtk14: sounds great
jtk14: I have some eagle designs
ignoblegnome: Yeah. If a member wanted to handle our fabrication work, that's another route.
ignoblegnome: It could also open up a market for custom build requests.
JoeBTheKing: That would be great for a lot of people
ignoblegnome: The tricky stuff is managing it, setting up payment to the site and to designers, etc.
JoeBTheKing: Some peolpe don't have access to those tools and also all the money would go back to the community.
ignoblegnome: I figure the designer gets paid and LMR takes a percentage.
JoeBTheKing: Maybe like 5%
jtk14: I had a store and let me say shippment options are a pain
JoeBTheKing: Thats what the ALABTU code gets LMR
ignoblegnome: Frits already negotiated with some web shops for 5% discount to LMR members, and 5% cut for LMR. This would be similar...
ignoblegnome: but with our own shop.
JoeBTheKing: Shipping is a pain and LMRers are all over the world.
ignoblegnome: Yeah, Joe. Shipping is a challenge. If we can centralize some of the fabriation and shipping that would help a lot.
ignoblegnome: Take that burden off the designers.
ignoblegnome: People expect shipping cheap and fast.
JoeBTheKing: I know though that if a need something ASAP I will order something local.
JoeBTheKing: A few summers ago I sold a lot on ebay and shipping price isn't to bad for those yellow envolopes.
ignoblegnome: It'd be a fun new economy-thing. Distributed product design, community product review and QA, centralized fullfillment.
JoeBTheKing: I think a LMRmarketplace would be awsome.
JoeBTheKing: Plus the money would go back to LMRers and will turn into new projects, tips, etc.
ignoblegnome: I think we could formalize the LMR Reviews to help with product testing and development.
ignoblegnome: Which gives members the chance to try new stuff for free.
ignoblegnome: Well, thanks for all the comments. I'm going to collect the SB log on this and post it.
Krumlink: I propose this idea for LMR4
ignoblegnome: Any additional thoughts?
ignoblegnome: I'll definitely sound Frits out on the whole idea, with all of your feedback and opinions.
jtk14: link it with the challenges?
JoeBTheKing: I think we just have to keep it seperate.
ignoblegnome: The post will be a good place to collect further feedback, including challenges. They are not trival.
ignoblegnome: Oh, sorry jtk14. I mis-understood. You mean the LMR Challenges section.
jtk14: yes like a prize for a 40% off
Krumlink: Yeah, somebody will have to manage it financially
ignoblegnome: That's an option. If LMR wants to sponsor some of the challenges. Could tie in with the LMR Bucks idea.
JoeBTheKing: Or maybe a challange to see who gets to test a product.
ignoblegnome: Yup. Once you are making money, it becomes a real deal. Where to incorporate? Tax implications. International payments. Fun.
ignoblegnome: Good thoughts, Joe. I think there would be many ways of giving back to the LMR community.
Krumlink: But remember this money is coming out of somebodys pocket to begin this
JoeBTheKing: Yes. Of course. Only if they are willing to.
ignoblegnome: Yeah. The whole idea could die on the vine without some start up capital.
Krumlink: I can do alot of design work and some pcb fab

ignoblegnome: Cool. I imagine we'd start small, so that would be helpful.

Krumlink: Better yet, have a new "page" type!

Krumlink: Except have purchase links and stuff!

Krumlink: Oh boy this is gooood

 

So, what do people think? Would this work? Please comment with your ideas, questions, problems, praise, or derision.

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I think this is an awesome idea, but I think that an attempt should be made for seed money to turn this into a full fledged sparkfun, but with that addition of full fledged community parts. I felt bad when I ordered my parts that I couldn't support LMR, but sparkfun was the only place that had everything I needed to get started at a reasonable price. I love this site but the simple fact is that I can only afford so much, and I would have had to order from Seedstudio and DIYBin to get all the parts I needed, and that would have required waiting the huge shipping time from Seed, and paying 2 different S&H charges, which given my financial situation wouldn't have been feasible for me, so I ended up ordering from sparkfun. If I could get all the parts I need with say Robot-x's robot-shield I would have ordered from one place (aka: here).

I seriously wish that I could give more support to a community that has helped me in more ways than it could know (regardless of my threads asking for help, I have read through a good 50% of forums posts made), and I think this is one way that I could contribute to the community and still be the cheap bastard that I am forced to be. If I were to get a better job, or a landlord more impressed by robotics, I would order all of my parts from the places that give LMR money for each item sold, but unfortunately my wanting to build a robot right now has superceded my allegiance to a community (same as when I buy products made in China, because I can't afford home-grown, I don't hate America, I just have a shitty job).

All that said, please introduce this idea, and please make it huge. I am not worth much, but I am experienced in web development, and am good for ideas, and will do anything that I can to support this absolutely amazing community of people who have helped me so much in my endeavor.

Well I saw a comment that someone was complaining about the shipping saying that lmrer's are all over the world and would be difficult to ship . Well I think that this is not a problem .Why?

For example someone wants to print something in plastic , we could make a system that every lmrer that owns a 3d printer

will be saved in the database of the system with information like where is this lmrer that owns the printer whats his name e.t.c

and the system will check the buyer's location from lmr's database since almost everyone declares where he lives in his profile

and then will find in the database the closest lmrer tha owns a 3d printer and show the buyer his information so as to contact him .

and this can be done with all kinds of fabrication like board etching , laser cutting ,e.t.c

 

Really good idea!

LMRketplace

Buying in one place is very attracting. Usually I have to place one or two orders online and then buy some parts locally.As well it would create opportunity for us to try and sell our creations! I think for a share that will be spared for LMR from sales, we even could organize events and even meetups?

Any possiblitity that some of the widespread members could be vetted as being trustworthy of other members designs? So, if someone in France wanted a specific board that patrick designed, rather than paying shipping overseas, one could order at the store and the order would be shipped via a local rather than from the US.

This is a really, really cool idea. It's the next logical progression of this site. You can start at the beginnings here, work your way up, and sell a kit. Beautiful!

I second the idea of a fee to be a member of the marketplace. This would signify that you are confident enough in your products to pay to be here. This membership could also provide other benefits, like specific forum access, or beta testing.

There is definitely something to be said about getting your products to a wider audience. Having a LMR Marketplace where you can show your products to a large number of people with the same interests as you is extremely valuable. Ease of use and ease of buying- without having to go to other sites, is all part of the experience that would drive people to buy from LMR Marketplace.

All in all, love this idea, looking forward to help progress this idea into reality :)

So finiancial related question,how to deal with the taxman?

I like the idea of a LMR store. I am thinking how this can affect my sales and profit. I have a 25% profit from the sales at the moment, and after I deduct site expenses, protocol expenses (kits sent to testers, prizes, etc) I end up with almost nothing. So I can either give 5% to LMR, OR give away a few prizes and test kits. 5% (to LMR) + 5% (discount to LMR users) will not make it for me.

So, if the LMR store will have pages for each product with Paypal Checkout, that will work out fine for me. Flat rate shipping for up to 3 products works well. 

But, besides being a vendor, I am also a buyer. So, I would like to be able to get all the parts I need from one place and pay one shipment fee. Will that be possible? I'm not sure.

But anyways, this is a great initiative and I want to be part of it!

Google checkout is another option as well.

i think this is a great idea , to have it all in 1 spot this will make it simple for the buyer to shop , ie me ,im so lazy :)

I want to second the idea of the razor-thin profit margins folks are working with here.. 99% of the time, it is tough to even get close to completing with even the medium-sized boys. If I had my way, I would pay a fixed flat fee to get on the marketplace and pocket 100% of the sales --and/or-- a monthly fee and keep 100% of profits. If nothing else, it is going to be a PITA to keep track of 10% of each and every item sold by countless different people.