Legit Co-Founders Jeremy Barton, Rob Boyle Join Facebook

By David Cohen 

Facebook’s acquisition appetite was fed by gobbling up another management and development team, as Jeremy Barton and Rob Boyle, co-founders of universal reputation system Legit, have joined the social network.

Barton and Boyle announced their move on the Legit website, and Facebook confirmed their hires to TechCrunch, adding that they joined the company through traditional hiring procedures, and that its corporate-development team was not involved.

The two Legit co-founders wrote on their site:

We want to share some exciting news: Our team has joined Facebook.

When we began working on Legit, our goal was to build a company that could help us answer the question, “Can I trust this person who I have never met?

We threw ourselves at this question, using our experience renting out our cars, staying with strangers, and sharing many rides in the San Francisco Bay area. In our brief history we named and branded our company twice! We built a first product, which we were really excited about, and totally threw out. Then we built a second. Scrapped that, too. We settled on a third, the LRG.

Despite many challenges, our journey was rewarding. While we were not able to achieve Legit’s vision, we learned a lot (the hard way!). In an effort to push the sharing economy/collaborative consumption movement forward, we want to share three of our biggest lessons.

We struggled with a consumer-first approach to a universal reputation system. We saw that a system requiring a person to go to a different site for reputation information before proceeding with a transaction on a marketplace presented too much friction. This friction was coupled with the reality that many people using sharing economy systems are early adopters who are not only willing, but excited, to try new services with little need for additional sources of trust. We found that we were not solving a problem for the majority of people with a consumer-first approach.

Shifting away from a consumer-first approach, we built and tested a widget that would integrate into a user’s reputation profile within a marketplace. However, we learned that marketplaces want control of their user experiences (totally understandable). The design and development teams within the marketplaces we spoke to had enough on their hands, and didn’t want a third-party widget complicating their UX.

We dug in to build a cross-platform reputation system, the LRG. This system would be purely back-end-focused at first, and as it scaled, we believed this system could then interface with the user via a marketplace. Our learning here was that data sharing does not make sense with the current scale of the sharing economy. We evaluated data from several partners and learned that the communities of most sharing companies are not large enough to warrant a piece of infrastructure like the LRG.

All of these lessons feed our excitement about Facebook. On Airbnb, Facebook is used to tell you if your host went to the same college, or whether a friend of yours has stayed there before you. When you sign up for Lyft, you have no option but to connect with your Facebook account to provide proof of your identity. Facebook is a core piece of infrastructure for many marketplaces as the source of your offline authenticity and reliability. While we will be working on other initiatives within Facebook, we remain huge advocates of the sharing economy/collaborative consumption, and are confident the movement will continue to grow.

Readers: Do you think Barton and Boyle will bring any components of the sharing economy/collaborative consumption movement to Facebook?