Zaarly is hoping to be KC's next great tech company.

Zaarly CEO Bo Fishback is waiting for his tipping point 

Zaarly is hoping to be KC's next great tech company.

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"We believe that people want to do the right thing," he says. "And the more local you make something, actually, the more true that becomes. If you only were doing deals with people on your street, no one would ever screw you. Why? Because they're going to fucking see you tomorrow."

Fishback says scams and incidents of nonpayment have been all but nonexistent on Zaarly.

"Right now, we've had one complaint in almost $3 million of transactions. Someone didn't get paid. One. So we just paid the person."

Zaarly users, he insists, aren't psychopaths. They're normal people who want normal social interactions to be part of their commerce. To illustrate this theory, Fishback, who travels on company business most weeks, tells a story about a 4:45 a.m. ride to the airport that he requested through the site.

"A woman came and picked me up," he says. "And [now] I'm interviewing her to be my nanny. Amazing, right? She just moved to Kansas City a week and a half ago. She doesn't have a job yet. She's interviewing and looking around for places, and a friend of hers told her about this thing called Zaarly, and she was like, 'Oh, my God. What a cool thing. I can make some money and meet people in the city I just moved to.' We've heard this story over and over again." His chauffeur that morning started work as a nanny to Fishback's 9-week-old son, Pierce, earlier this month.

Adam Hofmann, Zaarly's director of marketing, who also left a position at Kauffman Labs to join the company, says couple users are another Zaarly trend.

"Who would have thought to open up an app, see that someone needs some gardening done, and go and do it with your girlfriend?" he says. "It's the new date."


The River Market office, with its hardwood floors, exposed-brick walls, pingpong table and trashcans full of empty energy-drink cans, registers as the set of some clichéd movie about a tech startup. Young, attractive employees sit around a communal work area, gazing at flat-panel monitors and tapping on Mac laptops. Many of Fishback's hires say they've moved thousands of miles and changed careers for the chance to work here, under its charismatic leader. Peeled away from their tasks to talk about Zaarly's potential and their boss, employees tend to swoon over both.

Amanda Fick, 30, met Fishback in Madison, Wisconsin. Fishback's wife, Shelby, a radiologist, was finishing a fellowship there, and Fick, who owned a pet-sitting business, took care of the couple's two dogs: Dax, a golden retriever, and Keen, a Bernese mountain dog. Fishback, who had visited his wife every weekend while she was in Madison, suggested that Fick work at Zaarly. When asked if it was a hard decision to uproot her life for a startup, to do a job no one defined for her when she took it (one she can't easily explain today), she laughs.

"It was, but Bo and his razzle-dazzle," she says. "I don't know. He can make you do anything."

Jeff Morris, 26, ditched his job at a San Francisco tech firm. A spur-of-the-moment cover letter that he e-mailed Fishback at 2 a.m. one spring night led to a job interview at Zaarly's Bay Area outpost at noon the same day. Twenty-four hours later, he was at work in Kansas City. Morris says he did it because Zaarly stood out among an endless pile of Silicon Valley schemes.

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