Be Gone, Junk: Austin Startup Touts “Reverse Amazon” Service
Amazon makes it easy to buy a lot of stuff. Gone wants to bring that ease to getting rid of it all.
Today, the Austin, TX-based startup has unveiled its app designed to help consumers sell unwanted items around the house. The service is available in Austin and San Francisco, with plans to expand to other cities in the next few months.
Nicolas Bayerque, Gone’s founder and CEO, describes it as a “reverse Amazon” service: Gone says it will sell unwanted items in about the same time it takes Amazon to deliver new purchases to your door.
Users take a picture of the item they want to sell and upload it to the app, which has an algorithm that provides an instant valuation, offering how much Gone believes a buyer would pay for an item. “People try it with one item and then they can go find more hidden treasures,” Bayerque says. “They then get all of their stuff picked up at the same time.”
Once the seller agrees to the proposed price, Gone will send boxes and packing materials. The startup picks up the boxes and ships them to the buyer. After the buyer acknowledges receipt of the product, Gone deposits a credit into the seller’s account, which can be used to buy more items on the marketplace or cashed out.
Gone makes money by then re-selling those items on marketplaces it has set up on Amazon and other smaller, niche sites. It aims to create a sort of e-consignment store. Some items—like personal electronics—sell almost immediately, while others might take a few weeks, Bayerque says.
“We have a merchant account on Amazon,” Bayerque says. “We take the time and maintain it; we’ve mastered those procedures as we are high-volume sellers.”
The startup does not take a set percentage or fee from each transaction. Instead, Bayerque says the startup’s pricing algorithm determines the market value and calculates the purchase price in order to give Gone a profit margin.
If an item fails to sell, Gone has partnerships with local donation and recycling centers that will accept those items. No matter the product’s ultimate destination, Gone will arrange for the packing materials and shipping.
Gone looks a lot like Sold, a Boston-based startup that came out of the MIT Media Lab last year with investments from Google Ventures, Greylock Partners, and others. Last November, DropBox bought Sold and closed it down, just seven months after its debut.
There are other online marketplaces popular with re-sellers. Sites like e-Bay and Craigslist have large followings, and e-recycling startups such as Seattle-based EcoATM and eRecycling Corps in the Dallas suburb of Irving, TX, are creating markets for unwanted cell and smartphones.
Bayerque hopes Gone will prove to be a better option because it takes all the work of pricing, shipping, and selling out of the hands of the users. “All they have to do is take a picture,” he says.
The startup has attracted some notable supporters, raising $1 million in seed funding from investors such as Techstars, David Cohen’s Bullet Time Ventures, Cygnus Capital, Nxtp.Labs, Socialatom Ventures, and angel investors from Austin and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Gone was part of Techstars Austin’s first crop of startups last fall. For the last five weeks, Gone has hosted an invite-only pilot of about 200 users, some of whom have gotten checks for up to $1,400, Bayerque says.
The most popular and lucrative items are personal electronics like laptops and tablets, followed by small home electronics and kitchen appliances. In the pilot, 100 percent of the items offered have been sold and none have had to be donated or recycled, he added.
“Online shopping is leaving us with a lot of stuff in our closets that we don’t use,” Bayerque says. “While the experiences for buying are highly optimized, selling wasn’t quite there yet. We make selling all of your unused items easy—making it easy to get new stuff.”