A Pittsburgh company is hoping the Steel City is ground zero for what they say is the next evolution of online shopping.

Caboodle Technologies, Inc., which operates a “trading post” and bookstore in Shadyside, will launch an app on Apple platforms Feb. 15 that allows users to trade goods for other products locally. The app is already available on Android devices.

The app follows in the footsteps of online staples like eBay and Craigslist, social media platforms like Facebook Marketplace and apps like OfferUp, co-founders Amber Brown and Joe Marks said. But the duo, who previously launched a startup around game-based surveys, say the difference with Caboodle is that it focuses on low-price items — those typically between $5 and $20 — anything from clothing to board games to Steelers gear.

The app is timed, so users have to “pick or pass” on an item before time runs out. Users can freeze an item or buy additional time for 25 cents as an in-app purchase. Stock is kept at the Caboodle shop and items can be picked up in Shadyside or delivered by van within a five-mile radius of the shop, Brown says.

“The focal point of all of the other apps is for items that are worth $50 and higher,” says Marks, a native of Dublin, Ireland, who met Brown while the two were working for Disney in Los Angeles. “You’ve gotten tired of the no-shows and you’re tired of the ‘where are we gonna meet?’ We want [Caboodle] to be frictionless and fun.”

Artificial intelligence in the background of the app learns users’ preferences and presents items accordingly, said Marks, whose day job is with the Center for Machine Learning and Health at Carnegie Mellon University.

“There’s no advertisements in the app and we do not sell the data to anyone else,” Marks adds. “We use the data only to improve the experience in our app. We take privacy seriously.”

Caboodle is bootstrapped so there are no outside investors, Brown said. They originally planned to launch the app in California, but they now want to establish the model in Pittsburgh and expand it to other markets across the nation.

“This is the path,” Marks says. “It’s what eBay and OfferUp did. They started hyper-local.”

To test drive the app, visit Caboodle at 5900 Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside — they have electronic kiosks in the store loaded with the app — or go here.

Justin Vellucci

A former news reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Justin Vellucci currently freelances for a number of Pittsburgh publications and works as a staff writer for the music...