WorthPoint: Building a specialized knowledge-sharing community

Here’s an example of a site which is using social media technology to build a community–but not the friend networks we’re used to reading about of late. There are many interesting things about WorthPoint, an emerging Web community which hopes to greatly improve on the eBay model of selling collectibles–but for the purposes of this blog, the most interesting is the way in which it’s building social knowledge-sharing and accumulation into its business model. 

I spoke to founder and CEO Will Seippel yesterday about the site, which should be in beta until late summer. Seippel, a serial entrepreneur with a serious passion for sports memorabilia, intends WorthPoint to serve not only as a mechanism helping collectors to buy and sell their things, but also as a place where people share knowledge, Wiki-style, on individual antiques and collectible categories.  “eBay is a very good market for things where you can tell clearly what they are,” Sieppel says. “But it’s gotten away from its roots in collectibles.”

In addition to sharing knowledge, also expecting people use the site to determine what a piece is worth. The site provides price and descriptive data on collectibles from 500-odd auction houses, something which must have cost the company considerable time and money.

Still,  from our talk, it sounds to me as though Seippel expects the intangible knowledge in the “Worthopedia” wiki to be what keeps them coming back. I agree with him–the mere fact that social media networks continue to grow despite the overkill out there speaks to people’s deep need to share information and connect.  Focusing on one specific passion only makes the appeal stronger.

For the moment, the site isn’t actually hosting auctions or sales like eBay or Amazon (which, honestly, raises the question of how it plans to monetize the site beyond a handful of undistinguished banner ads). But my bet is that if Seippel succeeds in harnessing the passion of dedicated collectors to create a rich wiki, that alone will be a very valuable asset. And if he succeeds, look for other vertical sites to emerge focusing on this knowledge-accumulation model. All in all, an interesting venture with a unique niche.


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