Paying for services in kind: Tibba app allows people access to exchange skill set

Tibba, a new app that launches in Dubai this month, will allow residents to exchange services and skills without having to dig into their pockets.

Erica Werneman, left, and Yasmine Akermark, developed the app Tibba through a barter with Swedish technology company Layer10 Collective AB. Alex Atack for The National
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There’s a new app that’s bringing back the barter system. Tibba, developed by Dubai lawyer Erica Werneman and Yasmine Akermark, allows freelancers, professionals and stay-at-home parents to exchange skills and services – from photography to yoga training – without having to dig into their pockets. The app, which is in its beta-testing stage, will be launched on Google Play and Apple Store later this month.

The concept

The Dubai-based Swedes came up with the idea for the platform a few years ago, while on a road trip to the Omani town of Dibba. (It’s also where the app got its name – they mistook Dibba for Tibba, and the name just stuck.)

“[During the trip] we were talking about the concept of happiness,” says Werneman. “When you ask someone what makes them happy, the general response is an ‘experience’, not buying something with money,” she says.

That realisation and the tough economic climate that has businesses cutting costs became the foundation for the app.

“It is ironic that money was created like a liquidity for people to trade, but we constantly find ourselves in a situation where thousands of people have skills that they want to trade, but they or the other party doesn’t have cash,” says Werneman. “So we are just trying to bypass that, make sure that people have access to opportunities no matter what the size of their wallet is.”

The duo established the company, which is registered in the United Kingdom, through a barter with Swedish technology company Layer10 Collective AB, which developed the app.

“We first thought of raising money through investors but didn’t really know what to do with the cash. So instead we pitched it to IT firms and signed one on to get an equity stake in the company rather than pay the creators.”

Skills swap

The app will allow users to create a profile, similar to online freelance professional platforms, detailing their skills, experience and projects. They also state the services they are seeking and what they can offer in return.

“We let the app user pick what they are happy and satisfied to exchange,” says Akermark, who looks after the operations in London. “We do not get involved in the valuation of the services because that is a subjective concept. It’s a mutually agreed contract between the two parties.”

After the user develops their profile based on a standard template, which can be tweaked with personal images, they are placed into categories such as accommodation, adventure, beauty, creative, fitness, food, language, pet sitting and tickets.

Once they find a desirable give-and-take, they can start a private conversation to discuss specifics of the exchange. The terms are formalised by clicking the “handshake” within the app and each party is sent a copy of the agreement. Users also get reminders to make good on the undertaking and an alert on the expiration date. On completion of the projects, the app requires users to rate the collaboration, maintaining quality through a peer-review system.

Surf House Dubai and personal trainer and nutrition coach ­Marti Susanne Hobby are among the professionals that have already signed up as part of the testing phase.

“Surf House Dubai had already been engaging social-media influences, who they would provide free gear with in return for being promoted. With our app they can reach a much bigger audience,” says Werneman. “And Hobby, she is looking for people to help her launch her online business and will be taking ­personal-training sessions for people who agree to the exchange.”

The roll-out

The founders will test the app in Dubai before rolling it out later this year in other cities around the world, including London, Barcelona, Bali and Shanghai. A crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter is also in place to raise funds for the expansion. And premium services will be ­offered for a fee in the next phase.

“While the basic services will be free, other services – such as adding insurance for businesses and allowing users to access services offered by users in other communities when they travel – will come at a premium fee,” says Werneman.

• Tibba launches in Dubai this month and will be available for free on Google Play and The Apple Store. For more details, visit (@gotibba on Instagram)