Bartering is the oldest form of commerce. The exchange of goods and services between two or more parties without the use of currency dates back to 6000 BC.
Here in the 21st century, bartering is making a comeback in the form of a Hamilton-based tech company called BarterPay.
Let’s say you own a jewelry store and have $20,000 worth of inventory you’re trying to move. You can list the jewelry on BarterPay in exchange for 20,000 Barter Credits. Those credits can then be used to purchase goods and services listed on the site from other members.
BarterPay’s member network spans across 20 regions, from Victoria, BC to Moncton, NB. But John Porter, the company’s founder and CEO, chose to keep BarterPay’s head office in Stoney Creek, ON.
“Hamilton is becoming a world-class city for tech talent,” said John, who grew up in the area. “The pandemic is causing a lot of people from Toronto to want to moveand I think that you’re going to see a lot more people move to Hamilton from that tech talent pool.”
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BarterPay launched in 1996 with its first client, Terence Webster Design in Ancaster. The only problem was that there was no one for Terrence Webster to barter with because he was the only member.
24 years later, BarterPay has 4,000 members, with the goal of reaching 50,000 within the next few years.
“When you join, we assign you a personal barter coach,” John said. “It’s very important that there’s a human element.”
He used the example of an electrical company interested in joining BarterPay.
“Let’s say you value your services at 3,000 Barter Points. We would then start advertising your services and look to find you jobs. Once you choose to accept those jobs, we just connect you with the buyer.”
“From there you can then work with your barter coach on the wish list of things that you’re looking for,” John continued. “Maybe it’s advertising; maybe it’s vehicle wraps; maybe it’s a customer approach.”
It would normally cost you $495 to enroll in BarterPay, but that fee was reduced to $99 when COVID-19 hit. There’s also a $25 per month fee, which gets waived for the first three months as you test out the system. Then there’s a 12.95 per cent commission fee for utilizing your Barter Points.
Bartering has become a viable method for businesses to stay afloat in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We understand that cash is the oxygen of any business. So obviously, if they can sell out 100 per cent of their time and space or 100 per cent of their inventory in money, that’s the primary way to do business,” acknowledged John. “But we know that’s not feasible during a pandemic. So the tragedy is that so much time and space go up in smoke every minute, every day — like, you know, a golf tee time expires every eight minutes… a hotel room every 24 hours. We allow those businesses to get value from that.”
The company is also giving back, with the BarterPay It Forward Foundation, which receives and distributes Barter Credits to charities. These Barter Credits are generated by member businesses that convert their downtime or idle inventory by trading it on the BarterPay platform.
“At this point, there are millions of dollars in credits flowing through our foundation and back out to local charities, who can get what they need to reduce their admin and overhead costs. So it’s really, really cool. It’s catching on,” John concluded.
The pandemic has forced companies to find new and innovative ways to do business. It turns out, one of those “new” solutions has been around for well over a thousand years.