Where do you draw the line in the services you offer on your marketplace?

Voiced by Amazon Polly

When building a marketplace you, obviously, need buyers and sellers. That’s a given.  However, you quickly run into a question of whom these buyers and sellers should be.  Let’s take AirBnB. They need people who are looking for a place to stay to match them with people who do have place to stay.  Lyft has a similar equation.  You need people who want to go somewhere to match with people we can take them there.


Sounds simple right?  Not so much.

Take a look at the listings on Airbnb. You will quickly see that alongside the regular inventory of couches and beds you also have some more esoteric propositions. Everything from houseboats, to tents, and even tree-houses. Lyft and Uber have similar non-standard offers with some people using boat or even helicopter rides.

So where should they draw the line?  Should they let anyone who can offer a ride be on their platform?  Does a shack in the wood qualify?

These decisions have many ramifications.  They affect how your brand is perceived (“cool I can book a helicopter”) and potential liability implications (“the helicopter crashed, I am suing”).  They will also influence how your technology is implemented. Maybe even the type of investors you bring along.


Drawing the line at Okaya

We are constantly faced with a similar question at Okaya. When it comes to wellbeing, the range of people who would like to use our platform to help their customers is large. We get requests from  “mainstream” practitioners such as therapists, chiropractors, nutritionists…to people who may be qualified as more “esoteric” a group such as magnetizer or hypnotists.

Even more interesting in our field is that there is a high level of “belief” involved.   For example, I strongly believe that acupuncture is a good way to treat certain symptoms.  Other people do not believe that these treatments can help them whatsoever.

So using a judgment call as to whom is “worthy” of being on our platform would be really risky and very pretentious as well.


Controversy is always around the corner

Still we need to make some choices because some situations are not always clear cut.

But let me go and be a bit controversial to show you that drawing a line is not as simple as it seems.  Say that someone who works in the Red-Light district in Amsterdam wants to be on our platform.  They claim their services provide a wellbeing upside.  Should we block them from it? Should we prevent CBD manufacturers from being in our list of providers despite the jury being still out on the true benefits and risks of CBD?


Our current approach

We have to start somewhere so currently we have a two-prong approach to dealing with the challenge:

Any professional can use our SaaS tool to better interact with their customers.

However, to be visible on the marketplace we will have some limitations:

  • One cannot be in the MLN business or try and recruit people to be part of MLN schemes.
  • If being in a business that is regulated (think cannabis) in certain countries/states, we are not listing them at the moment. It’s not a judgement on these businesses. It would require a much more complex infrastructure. And also, I am not sure how an AI can start to determine you need CBD…or a trip to the red-light district!
  • For people who do not have diplomas or certifications -which often happens with people dealing with alternative wellbeing methods like magnetism-, we will implement a verification & recommendation system.  Now, mind you, 50% of all doctors have graduated in the second half of their classes so one should take certifications with a grain of salt anyway!


How would you handle it?

The one upside of these difficult decisions is the intriguing talks with your potential investors.  They each come from their ideas and their backgrounds.  And, this may be one of the few areas you will have during your discussions to clearly establish whether they are people you want to work with in the long-run.

Those are not black and white decisions and, to be honest, no matter which route you take people will think you are wrong (just look at any discussions happening when a large retailer decides whether or not to sell firearms for example)

We are in the midst of deciding where the line should be and we welcome everyone’s feedback, we’d also love to hear from your experiences and how you would tackle the situation in our place.

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