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Fishback, a graduate of Harvard Business School, says it's true that his team put together a fast initial round of funding led by Kutcher in the days immediately following Startup Weekend. But it hasn't just been about being in the right place as a bubble inflates. These were well-connected businessmen making, in the startup parlance, "a play."
"We're very experienced founders," Fishback says. "And not only are we experienced founders — the last 10 years of my life has been helping people build what they want to build. And I loved doing it," he says.
"It's only possible to go this fast if you have a really deep and trusted and robust network. So it's not like we're just some random dudes who had this idea." Fishback says mutual friends introduced him to Kutcher, Moore's husband, six months before Zaarly existed. Both men — Kutcher more famously — are borderline obsessed with startups.
By the end of February, Fishback had quit Kauffman Labs and the Kauffman Foundation to run Zaarly full time, a move that might be the closest thing in Zaarly's timeline to the classic garage story. But the reality of Zaarly's slick, fast emergence hasn't stopped the national press from putting the company in a metaphorical garage or suggesting that three guys happened to collide at a serendipitous moment.
Fishback shrugs it off. "People like that story," he says.
Ryan Wallace, a bearded, redheaded bartender at the Riot Room, has the look of a 19th-century settler. In this millennium, he's a different kind of pioneer, one of Zaarly's early local adopters and biggest users. Wallace says he has completed about 20 transactions, ranging from delivering food to high-fiving a man sitting alone in a park for an easy $5.
That's how simple Zaarly is. A user posts a request, a time limit, and what he or she is willing to pay for the desired thing: something delivered, a yard raked, laundry done. Another user then agrees to fill the request, and Zaarly brokers the deal. If the transaction is paid for with a credit card, Zaarly takes a 9.95 percent cut. The company makes no money off cash transactions.
Zaarly so far has charted the experiments of people discovering what their neighbors are willing to bring them or do for them. Alcohol is a frequently asked-for commodity, even though it lies in a Zaarly gray area. It's on a list of banned items, but Fishback says the listings aren't being removed as long as users are being responsible and checking IDs. Some items that have been listed in Kansas City in recent weeks include a 24-pack of Bud Light (to be dropped off at the City Place Pool) and a "good bottle of non-first-growth Bordeaux."
Some proposals are, of course, far-fetched. One recent user hoped to borrow a Lamborghini for the weekend. Another Kansas Citian solicited a very specific item. "Custom Championship Belt: I'm looking for a custom wrestling type championship belt. Leather strap, 1 large main plate then two small plates on either side. Jewelry maker or metal sculpter would be ideal. Would like it to be done by end of September at the latest."