Based in Singapore with offices throughout Asia and Australia, Reebelo wants to make buying pre-owned tech as desirable as a brand new device. “What we have seen is that many younger generations are very much open to the idea of sustainable consumption,” co-founder Philip Franta told TechCrunch. “We see a lot of growth and momentum in the space globally, but also here in this region, because I think we are finally at the stage as a society where we’ve realized that the way we’ve consumed in the past is not sustainable.”
Investors agree, with Reebelo announcing a $20 million Series A today, led by Cathay Innovation and June Fund. Other participants include FJ Labs, Naver affiliate KREAM, Moore Strategic Ventures, French Partners and Gandel Invest. Returning backers also contributed, like Antler, Maximilian Bittner (co-founder of Lazada and current CEO of Vestiaire Collective, an e-commerce site for curated pre-owned fashion) and Michael Cassau, the founder and CEO of Grover, a tech rental platform.
Reebelo’s last funding was a $1 million seed round announced in June 2020. The company was founded in 2019 by Franta and Fabien Rastouil. It says that in less than two years, its revenue has grown 600% year-over-year and it now has 10,000 monthly customers and is nearing $100 million in annualized gross merchandise value. It has offices in Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan.
In an interview, Franta and Rastouil said they wanted to create a startup that combined social and entrepreneurial impact. Both had related work experience in Europe — Franta was involved in subscription device programs for telecoms, while Rastouil worked at Recommerce Solutions, a French platform for pre-owned devices.
But the two said something like Recommerce didn’t exist yet in Singapore, where Rastouil grew up.
Unlike many e-commerce marketplaces, Reebelo selects its vendors, with an emphasis on standardizing the condition of devices and a specific grading system for shoppers, using criteria like aesthetics (for example, if the device has a couple of scratches) and battery life. Partner vendors range from small shops to B2B players with much larger volumes of devices. Reebelo’s goal is to build the biggest inventory of pre-owned, refurbished devices, and says it is already the market leader in Singapore and Australia.
Before adding vendors to its platform, Reebelo screens them, checking that they are legal businesses, assessing their ratings on different distribution channels and making sure they are willing to abide by Reebelo’s quality checkpoints and returns and conditions. The latter includes free returns for 14 days and a one-year free warranty.
“This helps to filter quite well the vendors initially because some don’t want to agree to a one-year guarantee,” Franta said.
But Reebelo also sees its vendors as customers.
“We want to be a platform for all players in this circular economy,” said Rastouil, which includes vendors that are just getting started selling certified pre-owned devices. “Vendors are also our customers, because we really want to create this whole circular economy together with them in the region because it’s new for everyone.”
In terms of competition, Reebelo’s founders say it is a first-move in the APAC region, unlike Europe, where there are already several pre-owned device marketplaces. Instead of other e-commerce platforms, the main challenge is convincing customers that pre-owned devices can be just as good as brand new ones.
“There is quite some stigma in some countries here in the region, so the first challenge we had to overcome in the beginning was creating trust with our users,” says Franta. “That meant really changing minds from buying new to also buying refurbished devices, but I think we have achieved a lot.”
The new funding will be used to hire about 50 new employees in Reebelo’s existing markets across departments, and expand into new markets in 2022, including South Korea. It plans to offer new financial services, like device subscription, extended warranties in some areas, damage coverage or stolen phone protection. It is also expanding its verticals. Right now, Reebelo’s main category is smartphones, but it wants to sell more tablets, laptops and drones.
In a statement, Cathay Innovation investment director Rajive Keshup said, “Reebelo is providing a platform and marketplace for consumers that makes it easier for anyone to obtain electronic goods, all while helping to solve the problem of e-waste. The company is providing a pivotal platform for the circular economy in Southeast Asia and Australia, and we look forward to helping foster their expansion and growth.”