EBay’s internationally-based online classified site Gumtree is extending its roots to three American cities today, supposedly as a means of giving expatriates a feel for home when searching for job, housing and other listings.
Gumtree is now offering listings in New York, Boston and Chicago with the same design and feel that British, Australian, Polish and other natives of nations served by Gumtree, would find at home. The company chose them as “These three cities in the U.S. have the highest number of expats,” said Sophy Silver, a spokesperson for Gumtree.com calling from England.
The site, which was started in 2000 to give Australian and New Zealand natives living in London their own classifieds space eventually grew to be the largest listing site in the U.K., and was then purchased by eBay in 2005. In the past several years, eBay has also purchased other international classified sites, including Marktplaats.nl in The Netherlands and Spain’s Loquo, and has taken a stake in the largest American free listing site, Craigslist.
Supposedly rebuffed by Craigslist when it brought up the idea of taking a larger roll in its operations, eBay recently brought its own listing site, Kijiji, to the U.S. and is now doing so again with Gumtree. Silver insisted, however, that eBay isn’t looking to undermine its own classified listing investment by taking on Craigslist.
“We have a very valued stake in Craigslist and solid relationship with them, and we believe we can have multiple brands in the U.S. and they can all be successful,” she told me. “We are targeting very specific communities, if we thought we were going to be cannibalizing ourselves, we would go in with one property, but we believe there’s a lot of room for lots of different players.”
Still, considering the humble beginnings for Gumtree, and for Craigslist for that matter, I don’t think it’s too far off for eBay execs to hope they can gain a foothold in the American market and then try to topple the giant later on. Even if they have an investment in them.