The idea evolved during high-school, so my partner Lawrence Leuschner and I founded the company in 2004, still being students. In 2005 the founder team had been completed with Tim Fronzek, Olivier Mackovic and Daniel Freudenberger joining us. In that constellation we professionalized the company in 2007 and became full-time entrepreneurs. In the middle of 2009 we rebranded the company into “rebuy.de”.
Which professional experience did you have yourself at that time? When did you come up with the idea for your company?
I was a 17 year old student when the idea developed. Back then without any experience at all… a complete greenhorn.
Many start-up founder teams break up after a while. What is your secret for working in a larger founder team for such a long time?
Most important when working in a team is fully “exploiting” the strengths of every team member. You can only do that by giving everyone enough space and the right environment for deploying his own potential and strengths. As a result everyone of us has well-defined duties and responsibilities. A start-up is under constant change as it grows. In order to stay stable and steady as a team, every founder hast to keep track with that growth and change by developing his personal abilities accordingly. We foster a very open and continuous feedback and sparring culture in our company. It´s not always pleasant to hear what’s not working at the moment and what could do better, but in the end that confrontation is key for our personal development and helps the company. It is like in every functioning relationship: what matters most are the willingness to make compromises, integrity, honesty, trust and openness. For me these ingredients are key for long relationships both in business and in private life.
You started with another company name. With „Trade-a-game“ you were focused on trading “physical” computer games. What was your USP and compared with eBay what was the advantage for the customer, especially with online-affine customers like gamers?
We have always focused on convenience, product range and a more efficient supply-chain than auction-sites or marketplaces. In contrast to those sites we offer set prices for sellers, instant trade-in and a free and very easy processing. Making customers sell multiple goods in one transaction significantly reduces transaction costs and makes the supply-chain more efficient for all. These cost benefits are positively represented in our prices we offer. Unlike on auction-sites, buyers on reBuy.de do not have to pay shipping fees for every single article, because they are able to build shopping baskets from our stock. By providing a professional customer support and a quality guarantee for every purchase, hence we create a very safe environment for buying used goods online and making used stuff more socially acceptable.
Looking back, what have been the most decisive moments for your current success?
One of the most important decisions was focusing on used goods and extending the business to other used categories. During that time, we also had the idea for rebuy.de, the advancement of trade-a-game.de. On rebuy.de we only deal with used goods, and everything we do is about the aspiration to provide the perfect reCommerce solution.
In 2011 the so called „re-commerce“ platforms, that simultaneously buy goods from customers and sell those goods to other customers, has been pretty „trendy“. Momox got a funding of several million Euro in late 2010 from Action Capial, Ebay started a cooperation with flip4new. What do you think is the reason that there has been such a „recycling-fever“ (in German), as Alexander Hüsing of Deutsche-Startups calls it?
2011 was indeed an outstanding year for reCommerce in which the business model got a lot more sophisticated. The strong presence of the bigger players taught many customers that reCommerce makes sense and actually works better than traditional business models for used goods. Customers now understand that they can sell items much faster and easier, without having to list them for time-consuming auctions or on marketplaces. Nobody has to get up early on a Sunday morning for a flea market: with just a few clicks users can very easily get rid of their stuff, have some extra space in their flat again, do something for the environment and earn some extra money.
The Buyer side of the market was definitely fired by the increasing product range of the market players and an increasing awareness for the environment and price-sensitivity of costumers. In the retail sector the range of products is crucial for success, and that’s where we grew heavily in 2011: we now have over 680.000 items from 13 different categories on stock.
Speaking of fever, of growth: what is your current turnover and how many employees do you have now?
We have more than doubled our turnover of the previous year in 2011. Over 300 permanent employees are working daily for our success.
So you grew a lot especially in 2011, hiring 60 new employees in July. How did you finance that?
Financing such a rapid growth successfully is dependent from several factors: You need to achieve good operational results and a solid cashflow. In addition you have to make very few mistakes and work with good business partners and supporting investors. We are very lucky that all of our shareholders are long time partners and have fully supported and financed every further development of rebuy. When things are going well, everybody is happy.
Rebuy itself was in 2011 nearly bought by Media-Saturn (http://www.media-saturn.com/EN/Pages/Default.aspx), which had been stopped by one of the founders of Mediamarkt, Erich Kellerhals, who put a veto on that potential transaction. Did you get any buying offers by other companies after that?
The great media interest in relation to the planned acquisition definitely didn’t hurt us ;).
You had also a cooperation with Mediamarkt, „Asche für Altes“ , where Mediamarkt customers could swap in their old games or electronics on site for Mediamarkt vouchers. When did you start the cooperation, is this still going on? How many stores took part in the cooperation?
We started with several shops in Hessen back in 2010, until today we cooperate with about 60 shops in different regions.
As an acquisition by Mediamarkt-Saturn is still „in the air“, are you somewhat limited to expand that kind of offline cooperation with other electronics retailers? Or will we see other cooperations with non-competitors of Media-Markt?
In summer 2011 we had already started to cooperate with over 500 Mobilcom Debitel Shops: customers can trade in their used mobile phones and get vouchers which they can spend in the shops. There are many more cooperation models which could be considered. I am sure that we are the best reCommerce partner for such cooperations in Germany. Everybody who might be interested should contact me!
What are the next steps and the focus for your growth strategy?
In the next weeks we will move to our new headquarter here in Berlin. We are very much looking forward to our opening ceremony after 9 months of construction. For us it’s an important step, because our rebuy family is moving closer together again which will make us more efficient and even more competitive. We will achieve further growth by the introduction of new electronic categories and by expanding and optimizing existing sales and sourcing channels.
We thank Marcus for the interview and are curious if rebuy can overtake market leader momox at some time.