5 questions with … Jeff Schlicht of AuctionSniper.com

Jeff Schlicht, a 1995 Chico State University computer science graduate and vice president of engineering for Auctiva, started the business four years ago from the Bay Area. Today, the 14-person company is run from downtown Chico. Three million of the listings posted on eBay each month are managed by Auctiva software, and the company has added AuctionSniper and MoneyMover to its services.

1. What brings you to Chico? “I was working for PeopleSoft and [Auctiva] was going pretty strong. I was making several times more with this than I was making off PeopleSoft, so I quit. But most of us were paying $1,500 to $1,700 a month in rent [near Oakland], and this is something you can do from anywhere. A lot of us had gone to Chico State. It was a good place to be able to find talent—there’s a great supply. It’s a lot less expensive.”

2. How are your other businesses doing? “When we came to Chico in April 2001, it was just Auctiva. But we were looking for other things. The Sniper actually does better. The MoneyMover is all right, but we compete directly with Western Union. Both the buyer and seller tools have tons of potential still.”

3. How does AuctionSniper work? “You find the item you’d like to buy on eBay. You write down the number or click a link. You enter the maximum you’re willing to pay. We let you enter how many seconds in advance [of the end of the auction] you want to bid. It hides your interest in an item so you’re not in a bidding war.”

4. Isn’t sniping kind of controversial? “It is because some buyers don’t know how it works and they think it’s cheating. If they want to win the item over a sniper, they just need to bid higher. It’s usually the new people who don’t know about it—but then they turn into snipers themselves. We sometimes get e-mails saying, ‘You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.’ But eBay explains that sniping is OK right on their Web site.”

5. So, what do you bid on for yourself? "I work on it all the time, so it’s not leisure to me. I bid on DVDs and office things—computers sometimes. I snipe every time now, unless I use eBay’s Buy It Now, basically because I don’t want to wait. That’s their biggest scam ever."