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Commerce and community

John Porter’s BarterPay is helping its users save money in an ever-challenging economy.

In business, the best way to prove your concept is to demonstrate it successfully.  

This is exactly what BarterPay CEO John Porter did when he secured an interview with digital marketing guru and VaynerX founder Gary Vaynerchuk.

“I’d met Gary in January 2017 at an event hosted by  Haste & Hustle in St. Catharines,” recalls Porter. “While he was leaving, walking past attendees and fans on his way out, I got his ear for about 30 seconds and gave him a quick elevator pitch about barter. Gary said he’d tweet me back.”

After numerous DM attempts on Twitter and Instagram, nothing materialized, but Porter refused to give up. 

Wanting to get in front of Vaynerchuk, Porter decided that the best way would be to do so through one of Vaynerchuk’s own close associates: in this case, Gary Vee’s personal videographer David Rock (D-Rock). 

“I found out that D-Rock had been trying to get the D Rock handle on Instagram, but another user had taken it. I got to know that user and learned that his daughter loved to ride horses. I traded some furniture from my house for BarterPay Barter Credits, which I then used to acquire a high-quality saddle that I offered in exchange for the rights to the D-Rock Instagram username. The guy agreed.”

Porter then emailed D-Rock to tell him he now owned the Instagram handle and would trade it for a one-to-one meeting with Vaynerchuk in New York. After initially refusing, D-Rock eventually changed his mind, and not long afterward, Porter found himself in New York, sitting in front of Gary Vee himself. Porter had gotten his meeting and proved the value of bartering in a single stroke of brilliance.

BarterPay CEO John Porter grew up in Hamilton and went to high school in Stoney Creek. Photo: Submitted

Having achieved great success with BarterPay, a business-to-business (B2B) service, Porter now aims to bring the trading-based model to individuals with Barter It. Barter It will be a downloadable app that users can access by signing up for a small monthly subscription.

In this remarkable moment in history between pandemic-related lockdowns that forced many individuals to find new ways to make money and a looming economic recession, Porter believes that this new platform will help many people meet their needs while also saving them money. 

A “Made in Hamilton” Barter System 

John Porter, who grew up in Hamilton and went to high school in Stoney Creek, has been bartering for over 20 years. 

After graduating from high school, Porter was heading to study engineering at the University of Waterloo. To save up some money, he got a job selling alarm systems and learned he was very good at closing deals. He decided to put school on hold when he met an entrepreneur in Toronto who introduced him to the value of barter.

“The big issue for many businesses is that there is so much idle inventory just sitting around along with unsold time that expires,” says Porter. “I quickly learned that when you can’t sell something, you can always barter it for a product or service of equal value. Especially in a recession, turning to a bartering system that activates that stranded capacity, it’s a way to save money.”

According to Porter, almost anything that you can sell, you can barter, whether it’s chess boards, 3D printed items, or cooking utensils or services such as woodworking, lawn care, or piano lessons. 

Like BarterPay, Barter It will be a Canada-wide closed-loop trading platform, but Porter is staying close to his roots in east Hamiton and Stoney Creek. “Our head office is between Fruitland and Fifty Road. We will start where we are. 

“We’re in the planning stage and getting ready for funding,” says Porter, “and as we enter an economic recession, the sharing economy, the environment, and building community face-to-face are at the forefront of people’s awareness.”

The principle of person-to-person bartering is very simple, says Porter, and is already familiar to anyone who’s ever used Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. “If I have a lawnmower, for example, and I need a pair of hockey skates for my kid, and I don’t have the money for the skates, I would need to find someone with the skates who needs a lawnmower of equal value. We’re like Kijiji and FB Marketplace rolled up in one, combined with a new digital form of payment.” It’s always challenging for two people to agree on value, which Barter It addresses using a credit system called “BITS”, its own internal points system. “For valuation purposes, you can think of each BIT as worth $1 CAD,” says Porter. “Users earn BITS with each successful trade, and they can take those BITS and barter and trade with anyone in the entire ecosystem to get what they need. There’s no longer the conundrum of finding only a one-to-one trade: it’s now a closed-loop ecosystem where everyone can get what they need, all while conserving real cash that they can spend on rent, hydro bills, and other expenses.”

Beyond commerce, Porter believes in cultivating community. “The past two years have really shown us the weaknesses of the existing systems and just how much we depend on each other to live well. I want to facilitate conversations and in-person meetups, and the app does that. This is about the environment, sharing, and upcycling, especially as we navigate these difficult times. I’m happy to start here at home.”