It’s estimated that 80 percent of Americans currently have a smartphone — but chances are, most people actually own two or even three devices: the one that’s currently working, and at least one other one that’s either old or tucked away in a drawer somewhere.
That’s where Backflip comes in, the newly launched reCommerce platform that aims to simplify the process of turning unused phones (and other electronics) into cash, without the hassle and haggling that has historically been a part of the digital trade-in arena.
“If you look at what Amazon did, they made it so people would trust that with a one-click purchase, something was going to show up at your house within two days,” Backflip Co-founder and CEO Mike Barile said in a recent interview with PYMNTS. “The problem is, that doesn’t really exist for selling stuff.”
But now, after a brief beta testing phase in which the Austin, Texas-based startup kept 3,000 devices out of the dumpster while also putting $500,000 into the hands of consumers, Backflip is open for business nationwide, with trust and simplicity as its core tenets.
“You go to Backflip.com, share some information about the device that you want to sell, and we actually give you a price upfront instantly,” Barile said. “If you agree to that price, we then make it super easy for you to send us your device by bringing it into a UPS store, or they’ll pack it for you so you don’t have to do anything.”
Not a New Idea — Just Easier
Electronic device recycling is hardly a new idea. Apple has been offering trade-in credits (or free recycling for worthless devices) for years. So have other retailers, like Best Buy, which will give consumers an on-the-offer price or handle recycling for free for most devices. There are also scores of secondhand seller sites, as well as platforms like eBay or classified ad boards like Craigslist, where consumers can sell their own devices — and there are even pawn shops.
And yet, Birale said, for a number of reasons, very few people ever actually take advantage of these avenues. “Sixty percent of Americans have never sold or even traded in a used smartphone,” he said — and when taking into account other types of electronics, like game consoles, tablets and computers, the number is more like 90 percent. “So Americans have cumulatively hoarded tens of billions of dollars and stuff in their closets,” Birale noted.
He said fear is the top reason that people just sit on old devices. Whether it’s fear of dealing with a stranger, fear of having data or old text messages swiped or fear of getting ripped off, for most people, it’s easiest to do nothing.
“Our goal is to make it so easy to sell your stuff so that people feel guilty for not doing it,” Birale said. “We want to build the Amazon of making things disappear from your home or apartment.”
On a Mission
Backflip’s entry into this multi-billion-dollar device resale market has begun with accepting 130 different types of gadgets. The company also plans to expand its stable of services and is currently testing a courier pick-up service in its home market. Like many of its peers in the reCommerce, upcycling or reselling trade, recycling and waste reduction are an important part of the business model, whether it’s clothing, cars or computers that are being kept out of landfills.
“Our mission isn’t to be a reseller of electronics — it is to make it really easy to sell your electronics,” Birale explained. “So to that end, we’ve actually aggregated demand for these devices from dozens of retail partners that we work with.”
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