It used to be that if you wanted to start an underground cronut delivery racket, you'd have to do it through craigslist. But now there's Shout, an app where you can find not only cronuts at the insane price of $30 a pop, but reservations and tickets for top restaurants and shows in NYC.
Shout is a marketplace for "spots," which just means any commodity attached to your name: a train ticket, a place on a line, or a dinner reservation. If you've put down your credit card for a reservation, or can't get a refund on a ticket, you'd hop on Shout to see who wants it.
The app was inspired by a hypothetical question the cofounders had on their way to an airport: how much would it cost to convince someone to give up their seat on a plane?
The cofounders realized that while it was so easy to broadcast your thoughts publicly to the Internet, it was much harder to get in touch with the people in your immediate vicinity — people who might have similar needs.
But like any app for the sharing economy, there will always be power users who join up to start full scale — even extralegal — business enterprises.
Here's the concern: some huckster could use Shout to book a few dozen tables at Nobu or Tavern on the Green for a Friday night, and list them on Shout. And if no one wants to pay? Then that restaurant ends up empty on a Friday, when they were preparing for a full house — and some restaurants can't afford a few bad Fridays in a month.
Shout CEO Zachariah Reitano says they're working hard to prevent Shout from becoming a scalping marketplace, but he doesn't see reservation scalping as a potential problem to begin with. After all, putting a price tag on something that's generally free isn't a very good business model.
"People are selling reservations, but that's not something people generally pay for," Mr. Reitano said. "Restaurant reservations aren't a scalable business. [Reservation sales] took off in the beginning it excites people, and it's novel, but it is in no way where we want to take Shout long-term."
The app has already been used to sell tickets to musicals, movies, operas and the Tribeca Film Festival — but Shout has its sights set on bigger targets than tickets and reservations. Mr. Reitano is most interested in the "Anything Else" section of the app, where people are offloading their used stuff and offering paid services.
An aspiring actor, for example, used Shout to hustle for odd jobs Taskrabbit-style. Other users have used it to share magazine subscriptions, give out photography lessons, and sell off in-store credit for cheap.
The way Mr. Reitano pitches Shout's potential, it almost sounds like an app-ified craigslist. And that's exactly the point — Shout aims to have the same kind of local community bulletin-board vibe as craigslist, only less sketchy and unreliable.
"We would love to do very similar exchanges as craigslist, but do so with incredible trust and safety," Mr. Reitano said. "If someone wants to sell on craigslist, they have to prove their integrity every single time."
Shout, on the other hand, verifies user identities and transactions, holds money in escrow, and gives sellers profiles where people can leave reviews. When Mr. Reitano talks about Shout, "trust" and "security" come up constantly.
The app is in private testing for now, and though there are plenty of authentically personal offerings, it's impossible to say if the professional cronut campers will be the exception or the rule as Shout gains traction.