“We are the leading local marketplace in Australia and overall brand awareness is as strong as ever. There obviously has been competition, but competition is good. It shows the opportunity and how valuable it is for Australians,” he says, noting that there is still plenty of untapped potential within Gumtree.
One category the company is investing in heavily is cars.
“We have more used cars than the Car Sales website, but people don’t necessarily realise how big our supply and inventory is,” he says.
In part, the challenge of building out market segments like this on Gumtree comes from the breadth of products sold on the site.
“How you fundamentally buy and sell something is pretty basic. But the things you want in buying a coffee table versus a BMW is very different … The challenge is where to focus your energy,” he says.
It’s a challenge he knows full well given his 13 years with Gumtree’s parent company. While Gumtree Australia is housed on a completely different technical platform to eBay, and most of the Gumtree experience is built and hosted in Sydney, there are benefits that come from being part of a global company.
“We do cross pollinate where it helps the user experience … we comb an inventory from eBay that’s contextual to give our buyers more options. We pull eBay listings and direct [potential buyers] back to eBay if they are interested in those,” he says.
Herbst’s eBay experience also means he is well versed in managing a goal-driven team.
“One thing we’ve made a lot of progress on in the last year is, as much as possible, connecting the goals of business, customer and revenue metrics to everything that we are doing. We have an open, collaborative workplace where everyone has a sense of ownership. We can do that because we’re not that big,” he says.
His own career started in financial services in a private bank on Wall Street, but he soon realised it wasn’t the best place for him to thrive.
“I figured out quickly that while I was learning how business worked, I wasn’t passionate about it. I feel very fortunate: to be able to use Gumtree myself and hear the stories others have about what they’ve bought there – that keeps me going,” he says.