We talked to Alex, co-founder of the Toronto based startup Orchard, and asked him about the origins of the idea, co-founders, their upcoming launch and plans for next steps.
Founder2be: Alex, please describe for our readers the problem Orchard solves.
Alex: Orchard makes selling your old iPhone simple and social.
It’s a free service designed to help people sell their used iPhones. This year, an estimated 80% of upgrading iPhone users will not sell their old iPhone. We spent a week in front of the Toronto Apple Store interviewing everyone who went in and out. Our research from this exercise has indicated that a significant proportion of these people don’t sell their old iPhone just because it’s such a hassle to figure out a fair price and create an attractive listing online.
Our free app solves this problem by testing, valuing, and creating a web listing for a user’s device. Objective third-party pricing, an informative listing, and tap-to-share functionality allow our users to sell to friends or family with confidence that everybody is being treated fairly. Alternatively, users can leverage our pricing and listings when selling on other marketplaces, thereby reducing all of the effort involved in researching pricing, writing an honest and descriptive listing, and dealing with low-ballers.
Once the first devices with the Orchard seal of approval start selling, we’re hoping that buyers browsing listings will ask other sellers to get ‘Orchard verified’.
Founder2be: How does the actual app work?
Alex: The app evaluates a range of device functionalities such as buttons and switches, sensors, connections, etc. There are some automated tests and some manual checks. The app then compares the collected data to listings on market places such as Ebay, Craigslist, etc. and calculates a fair market value for your device given its condition.
Currently, if any of our checks fail, then Orchard will not price your device. We will only sell working devices with a 100% pass rate.
Founder2be: And how did you come up with this idea?
Alex: Classic start-up stuff – Bruno came up with the idea when he wanted to upgrade to the iPhone 5. He had a 4S in great condition, and when he looked into selling it, he found the existing solutions – Craigslist, Kijiji, and ebay – to be totally insufficient: figuring out what was a fair price, what to write in a listing, and how to deal with the subsequent bombardment of emails and private messages made for an awful user experience. Bruno convinced me pretty quickly that this was a real opportunity and in order to validate our idea, we spent nearly a week outside of the local Apple store talking to anyone with an iPhone or iPad. This research confirmed that a strong majority of those people shared our frustration with the existing solutions for selling a used iPhone.
Founder2be: When did you start working on your startup?
Alex: In late 2012, Bruno and I began thinking about how the service could work. It was a bit of a side project until early 2013, when we realized that we were onto something and really started ramping up our commitment to the project. And now there are three of us taking this very seriously.
Founder2be: How did you meet your co-founders? Have you worked together before?
Alex: Bruno and I are both from the west coast. But that’s not where we know each other from.
When I moved to Toronto late last year, Bruno had already been living here for 3 years. He kept telling his friends about his idea for selling used iPhone devices and some of them suggested that he talk to me about it because they knew I am into startups.
When Bruno pitched me his idea, I saw the makings of a really good concept and we agreed to work on it together. Some time later, we brought Hamza on as our CTO. He is the roommate of a classmate of mine at the University of Toronto.
Founder2be: And how big do you think the market is?
Alex: That depends on how you define the market. Currently, approximately 20% of iPhones are resold and by that figure, the used iPhone market in Canada and the United States is about $3 billion dollars annually. However, we have estimated the potential market to be about twice this size, as a large proportion of the iPhone users we spoke with who hadn’t sold their old devices, chose not to because they viewed doing so as either too hard, or not worth their time.
Founder2be: When will you launch and what are your plans for the next 3 or 6 months?
Alex: At the end of August, we expect to launch our MVP in Canada and the U.S., which will allow users to diagnose, price and creating a listing for their iPhone. For this iteration, it will be up to the user to find a buyer by sharing this listing wherever they see fit. We expect that social media will be a popular place to share listings, but are also wary of making any assumptions. We are really excited to see how people utilize our product, and then iterate to better meet their needs.
We will use the data and feedback from our MVP to optimize our product, fill in a few of the x’s in our business model, and raise a seed round. We have some really exciting ideas in the pipeline, but will modify them according to the feedback that we get from our early users.
Founder2be: What are your thoughts on monetization and business model.
Alex: Ultimately, we want to build a remote marketplace, with a similar business model to Ebay. We have a few other interesting ideas around monetization, but don't want to go into too much detail, as they are still in the conceptual phase.
Founder2be: Are you thinking about helping people diagnose and sell/buy other iOS devices as well? iPads? Perhaps MacBooks? And other platforms?
Alex: Absolutely. We will be supporting an increasing number of products, with the long-term goal of supporting any popular device capable of hosting a third-party application.
Founder2be: What are your needs and priorities following your launch?
Alex: Naturally, our first priority is improving our product based on user feedback. We will also be looking to raise a seed round, and begin supporting more devices. In order to achieve that, we will need an iOS developer. There is a good option pool set aside future hires, and once we're funded we'll add a cash option as well. If you're an iOS developer and Orchard sounds like a company you'd like to be a part of, please contact me. That being said, we expect to add more people as our business evolves, so if you're a talented developer who is excited by what we are doing, please reach out as well.
Founder2be: Sounds great! Anything else you want to add?
Alex: If you're in the United States or Canada and have a used iPhone you'd like to sell (or simply want to know what your current phone is worth), go to getorchard.com and sign up in order to be the first to get our app when we launch!