The online marketplace for second-hand tech is growing in Ireland and across Europe as conscious consumers seek to reduce, reuse and refurbish.
Vienna-headquartered start-up Refurbed first opened its online marketplace for refurbished electronic devices in its home market of Austria and in Germany. “We are now active in 12 European countries such as Ireland, France and Italy,” said CEO and co-founder Peter Windischhofer.
Less than a year after launching in Ireland in March 2021, Refurbed claims to have furnished 1pc of all Irish households with refurbished technology. “Our ultimate goal is to get a refurbished device in every household in Ireland,” added Windischhofer. “We have reached close to 20,000 households and only plan to increase this in the coming months.”
‘Once the process has been completed the device is like a new one’
– PETER WINDISCHHOFER
Refurbed offers consumers “renewed” second-hand smartphones, laptops, tablets, cameras, games consoles and audio technology with assurances, including a minimum 12-month warranty and a 30-day testing period.
All of the products are sourced from a network of partners across Europe, and those entrusted with the refurbishment process are “extremely specialised”, according to Windischhofer. He explained that the Refurbed products undergo a 40-step refurbishment process.
“This process entails a rigorous inspection of the device and a series of tests to investigate its functionality. The devices are cleansed and any signs of previous use are erased. They undergo data cleaning and component testing and, when required, components are replaced. Once the process has been completed, the device is like a new one. It also comes with the most updated software. For example, a refurbished iPhone would have the latest iOS update when refurbished, and arrive unlocked to the customer.”
All of this offers conscious consumers a way to buy tech like new without adding to the burden of production on sustainability and the environment. It can also mean savings of up to 40pc compared to a new model.
The idea for Refurbed came when Windischhofer himself had a bad experience purchasing a second-hand device. “Soon after I bought this device it broke and I was left with nowhere to go as it came with no warranty,” he recalled. “I did not want other consumers to go through this so I decided to act on this misfortune and come up with an idea on how to prevent scenarios like this one while also being environmentally friendly.”
Feeding into this eco-consciousness, Windischhofer’s start-up is now part of the growing circular economy which eschews the new in favour of sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing products and materials for an extended lifespan.
Beyond that, Refurbed has also set out to become a carbon negative and “environmentally positive” organisation overall.
The company has calculated that each refurbished device it sells saves up to 70pc of carbon emissions compared to the production of a new device. “To offset the remaining 30pc, Refurbed plants a tree for every product sold,” said Windischhofer.
Refurbed’s tree-planting initiatives currently operate in Haiti, Madagascar, Kenya, Indonesia and Mozambique, and Windischhofer added that he is looking into adding Ireland to that list “to help regreen this beautiful country”.
“We are passionate about not just talking about the environment, but acting on our words,” he said. “Furthermore, our tree-planting not only increases reforestation in these countries, but it also provides work for the population there.”
‘As people are engaging more with the circular economy, sustainable fashion and tech are becoming more popular’
– PETER WINDISCHHOFER
Refurbed is not Windischhofer’s first turn as an entrepreneur. He previously founded Yolmo.asia, an online review platform for Chinese language schools. He also has a background in e-commerce from his previous work as a consultant with McKinsey & Company. He founded Refurbed in 2017 along with Kilian Kaminski and Jürgen Riedl.
Like Windischhofer, Kiminski is a master’s graduate of Hult International Business School. He previously led Amazon’s certified refurbished German language marketplace and is a member of the Consumer Insight Action Panel, a European initiative supporting the transition to a circular economy. Riedl, Refurbed’s CTO, also has previous start-up experience and is a Startupbootcamp alumnus.
“Our team is growing rapidly, as we are currently hiring new people,” said Windischhofer. “Some of the jobs we have on offer include engineering and technology roles such as web developers, data engineers – all with remote work options.”
Last August, Refurbed closed a $54m Series B round led by returning investors Evli Growth Partners and Almaz Capital. Windischhofer said that $10m of that funding was dedicated to the Irish market.
“In addition to the raise, last year we planted our one millionth tree which was a milestone for Refurbed,” he added.
Windischhofer said the company is “constantly” in discussions with potential investors, teasing a further funding round later this year.
“We are targeting anyone who wants to buy electronic devices. This could range from students, parents buying new laptops and phones for their children, people working from home, and young professionals, to much more,” said Windischhofer.
“As people are engaging more with the circular economy, sustainable fashion and tech are becoming more popular. As such, we identified an opportunity to establish and grow our business.”
Looking at the challenges to that opportunity, Windischhofer said “it’s all about people”. He added: “Hiring the best people and making sure they are enabled to do their best work is key for every company. Scaling a company from zero to 200 people is very challenging.”
Another hurdle Refurbed aims to overcome this year is encouraging more diversity in its consumer base. “In 2021, we found that men were 70pc more likely to buy a refurbished smartphone than women,” said Windischhofer. “This year, we will focus on increasing trust with people of all genders to continue to grow the circular economy. We hope to also introduce new products into markets.”
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