Resell For Environmental Impact, What It looks Like in Real Life

The last month has not been easy. A series of hurricanes devastated many cities in the Caribbean as well as mainland America. Flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh killed nearly 1,200 people and shut down thousands of schools. Wildfires raged through deforested lands, destroying homes and people’s livelihoods on their way.

Scientists and nearly everyone in the business community recognize these events as partially caused by climate change and the impact of overproduction on our planet.

We, Melltoo, recognize that mass production drives people to consume more and burn up more gases to produce enough energy for our needs. All of this mass consumption is a primary cause of unseasonal weather, deforestation, droughts and flooding. After all, if we’re burning fuel, fracking, cutting and over-cultivating, new strange events will happen.

We launched Impacter because of our belief that selling second hand can play a powerful part in helping reduce overconsumption. We want to add a third “R” to the 3Rs, reduce, reuse, recycle and RESELL. We want to stand for responsible consumerism. We want to stand for responsible business.

Since day one, our goal has always been to give our users the best classifieds experience ever. We facilitate their buying, selling, shipping and payment all in one app. The Impacter initiative is our effort to approach a 7-star customer experience, where every member of the Melltoo community is not only a responsible consumer but ultimately an Impacter.

Impacter was launched on Android and iOS apps in October 2017. Impacter helps our community #Resell4aCause. Instead of hoarding stuff in your closet that you don’t use, simply list them for sale on Melltoo, turn them into cash that goes to support a cause you select. Impacter means that selling used items can be a force for good not only by reducing waste but also by giving back to social causes.

The idea has been cooking slowly through several iterations since last Spring and it truly reflects the ideals and values that Melltoo holds dearly. They are the same values of trust and no-waste (we’re the no-meetup classifieds after all!) that have guided our business since the beginning.

Morrad Irsane, CEO and Chief Value Officer for our brand and company: “We launched impacter to make a positive impact on society with the help of our community of buyers and sellers. The power to enact real positive change in society is up to us the people. If everyone makes the small step of reselling for a cause, the world will become a better place.”

For our users, it’s quite simple. User “Maryam” sells for a cause because it just makes sense.

Melltoo Pioneer Social Classifieds Towards A More Sustainable Economy in the UAE

Like most startups, the process of going to market is never a straightforward one. We started out with what we thought users wanted and ended up in what users actually want. Since then, we’ve built a business and a community platform whose primary offerings are trust and convenience.

We call it, the no-meetup classifieds. A community classifieds that comes to you on a technologically robust mobile app (more than just a retranscription of a few web pages) with full shipping and return management (convenience), a dedicated customer service team, curated listings and vetted users (trust).

This is our story.

When we launched Melltoo, we made a cool mobile app with listings and a chat option. We dubbed it the mobile classifieds app. Soon after, we launched our own payment guarantee and shipping features transforming our platform into a marketplace. Our community grew to hundreds of thousands of people who come to our platform to buy second hand items, backed by a money-back guarantee.

Like with every new disruptive business, we focused on user education. We doubled down on using new terms such as “marketplace” or “peer-to-peer” which have become buzzwords in other industrialized markets, but had little resonance for users who simply searched the word “classifieds” and downloaded our app.

After a short euphoric period of hypergrowth which had its own challenges, we figured out that we can only best serve our users if we remain truthful to how we envisioned our product in the first place.

This is how we do it differently:

Product value

Trust 

When you go on traditional classifieds, you usually have no idea who you’re dealing with. That’s a problem for people who prefer not to meet strangers. In fact, people on classifieds usually have concerns about putting their contact information on a public platform. And you will certainly run into problems where people lie about their items as well as a variety of other scams.

Being the modern classifieds that we are, every listing sold on our platform comes with a money-back guarantee, both parties are protected. Users have ratings from previous transactions and are verified to make sure they’re “real” and physically present in the UAE at the time of the transaction. When an item is paid for by a buyer, the funds are held in escrow until the buyer receives and the item he purchased. Once the item is accepted by the buyer, funds are automatically transferred to the seller’s account. As a buyer, this means that your money will be returned to you if you don’t receive your item. As a seller, this means that the buyer’s payment is secured prior to you shipping your item.

Convenience

Melltoo leverages a network of third party logistics companies to ship items sold in-app without the need for users to meet in person. The logistics of meeting in person to trade items like strollers, used iPhones or furniture is the biggest hurdle to selling on classifieds.

Dedicated customer service

Two years into servicing hundreds of thousands of users and tens of thousands of transactions, we’ve built a strong customer service team to push our brand forward. We push for great customer support before technology. Our primary KPI’s are speed and success in solving user problems.

When users come to us with a problem, we try our best to fix their problems as soon as it happens. In the word of our COO, Sharene Lee, “Prioritize, prioritize! First priority is to solve problems.” And she couldn’t have said it better. As the no-meetup classifieds, we handle complicated cases of shipping and returns as well as cash collections and withdrawals. The problems that may arise are numerous and we strive to always put the needs of our customers first.

Morrad Irsane, our CEO, shapes and pushes this vision to remind us of what we stand for:

“We are product and customer focused. Customers are the focal point of Melltoo’s development and vision. All goes hand to hand. Without customers there is no melltoo. Hence the online – offline experience should be delightful from the “buy it now” button to last mile delivery. We are striving to make the process so enjoyable and easy for customers that it becomes a no brainer when it comes to selling your stuff.”

Who is our customer?

Advertisers vs users

Traditional classifieds make money from advertisers and paid listings. They are typically platform hosts to other companies’ media and promotional campaigns. When you don’t pay for a product, you’re the product. Classifieds serve advertisers first and foremost and users are the product that they sell to advertisers.

At Melltoo, we do things differently. We serve our users, buyers and sellers, who use our platform for buying and selling among one  another. We don’t sell ads, we don’t have advertisers. Our focus is on providing the best user experience and ensuring that each sale goes smoothly. Since we make money off successful sales, we are partners with our users (both buyers and sellers) and they are our priority.

This is reflected in our marketing campaigns where we invest our marketing dollars right into our users’ pockets. Through a combination of a referral program and promo code campaigns, we incentivise purchases so buyers get a good deal and sellers sell fast.

Social Impact

Melltoo is a business with a mission. This mission is to contribute to a sustainable future through facilitating resale and reuse. We strive to reduce our footprint on our planet by reducing the need for overproduction through responsible consumerism (buying used!).

We go to work with the understanding that the 3 R’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” are the only way ahead if we intend to keep inhabiting this earth. We are introducing a fourth “R”, resell. Reselling helps us reduce and reuse and is a necessary step before recycling.

No-Meetup Classifieds, an $8 Billion Market Opportunity in the Middle East and Growing

This is a condensed conversation with the co-founder of Melltoo, Morrad Irsane.

We’re discussing Melltoo’s beginning and ongoing strategy to become the largest “no-meetup classifieds” in the Middle East.

Ahmed Medien is a Marketing Aid and Customer Experience Manager at Melltoo.

The answers have been shortened for flow.

AM: Why mobile-first instead of building a mobile-responsive website?

MI: When we first started working on Melltoo in 2013, mobile-first was the only way to go. People were eager to download any new app and try it out. Today, in 2017, it is a bit tricky. People don’t want to download an app just to try a product. They prefer to try it on the web first and if it makes sense, they move on to the mobile app. If you are just launching a new product today, go with mobile-responsive web first, then launch an app if your product takes off.

Mobile-first, however, has a better user experience. The native mobile app experience is superior to the mobile-responsive web when it comes to realtime geolocation and push notifications which are very important in consumer-facing products. A mobile app keeps the product front-of-mind and allows a product to become part of a user’s daily routine, making habitual use much more attainable. A good mobile experience should make things easier for the user, hence the importance of both UI and UX for our business. Today’s users are pressed for time and impatient. We work hard to make Melltoo intuitive without a steep learning curve. We know people just want to buy and sell without complex signups, payment methods and other UI friction.

Why “social” classifieds?

A product will become a part of a person’s life only if it’s social. Let’s not talk psychology, but social interaction is a fundamental human need. My dream is to contribute to building a more sustainable world by making it easy for people to resell and reuse. To do that, we have to not only make it easy, but to make it fun, rewarding, and engaging as well. And nothing is more fun than interacting with people in a safe environment.

Classifieds is an inherently social experience. However, the traditional classifieds experience is fraught with risk and as much anti-social behavior as there is social behavior. At Melltoo, we set out to facilitate positive social interactions in buying and selling by being the referee and go-to if things break down. In some ways, we are creating a safe social arena where people build relationships on the basis of their roles as buyer and sellers; for lack of a better term, a social network for buying and selling.

There are practical reasons for keeping things social as well, establishing trust. Part of the experience in Melltoo revolves around building an identity and reputation in the community. Knowing who you’re dealing with builds trust, which is important for successful transactions to take place. Ratings and reviews for previous transactions further solidifies credibility, especially in this day and age where fakes and counterfeits have become a global problem.

We want our users to be engaged in our community and to build relationships with one another. Features like comments and chats not only allow users to discuss and exchange product information, it’s also allows them to build relationships, creating stickiness in the marketplace. When you’re using Melltoo, you’re not just an individual behind a screen dealing with another individual behind a screen, you are part of a community. We are often asked whether the private chat is a leak for us, a way for buyers and sellers to take the transaction off-app to avoid paying selling fees. It probably does happen at times, but we believe that the service we are providing is valuable enough that people will prefer to keep things in-app. Not to mention the fact that transacting off-app does not help users build their reputations in the Melltoo community, which is a key element to successful transactions.

Why do you limit yourself to making money off transactions rather than other more available revenue streams such as selling media banners or premium listings to users?

Our model is purely transactional, we take a percentage off successful sales. Melltoo is not interested in selling mellsters’ data and personal information to advertisers for money. Nor are we willing to compromise the user experience with ads in our app. We have different aspirations. We value our privacy and want the same for our users. Paid listings is not something we do either, we want users to pay us only after they have derived value from the service, not before.

On Melltoo, users only pay us if their item is sold through the app. We believe this is the best way to make money for now. In future, we plan on introducing other paid services that bring value to users.

Why the insistence on remaining peer-to-peer?

Peer-to-Peer is the most difficult business model to build and sustain, yet the most rewarding when you succeed. Think any classifieds, airbnb, Uber, eBay (in the early days), etc. There is no peer-to-peer transactional platform in the UAE and the region. We are tackling secondhand items with fulfillment for the first time in the region. What is amazing about the peer-to-peer business model is interchanging user roles: buyers become sellers and sellers become buyers. This is maximally engaging since users can participate on both sides of the marketplace seamlessly. It also means that peer-to-peer businesses are high-impact businesses since participation is afforded to large segments of any given population.

From a strategic perspective, there are many other businesses doing B2C marketplaces, Amazon/Souq.com, eBay (today) and others. We follow Peter Thiel’s school of thought that prefers to avoid competitive industries and instead focus on achieving monopoly status in our space. In terms of user acquisition, a peer-to-peer marketplace is a notch more difficult to establish than B2C or ecommerce. For this reason, competitors are few. And the good news is that once we establish network effects, Melltoo will be highly defensible and enjoy monopoly profits in the region.

From a personal standpoint, my goal is to be an enabler, to enable people to help make the world a more sustainable place through resale and reuse. In this, power lies with the masses and hence the only way to do this is peer-to-peer.

What is the growth potential in the UAE and the region?

The average UAE household has about USD $2000 of unused consumer goods (e.g. an old iPhone, TV, furniture, toys and clothing) in storage in their homes at any given time. These can be resold and will inevitably get replenished as households continue to purchase. The population in the GCC and Levant is about 160 million or about 40 million households. Assuming about 10% of those households sell their stuff, that’s an $8 billion a year opportunity. If we succeed in our mission of making buying/selling second nature, we can increase the participation rate and the market opportunity will grow.

As you know, Amazon recently announced that they will be acquiring Souq.com. While this deal is great for the region in many ways, it is particularly important in validating the market demographics. We’ve had more than one outside VC questioning our market size. Compared to India, China, Brazil, etc, 160 million souls scattered across multiple countries seems small. However, about 40 million of these people are already online consumers and smartphone penetration is among the highest in the world. Currently, ecommerce represents 2% of total retail spend and the region boasts the youngest populations in the world, which means growth potential is huge. Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to founders of large Indian startups who find the region more lucrative than India in certain categories (restaurant, travel etc). While there may be many more Indians, online consumption among Indian consumers is still low. In addition, per capita income in the GCC countries are among the highest in the world.

I have lived in the region for over 12 years. This is my home and I have no plans on leaving. I’m committed to the region and I’m bullish about it’s growth potential. When I first moved to the UAE, the population was 3 million, today, it’s 9 million (tripled in 12 years). Where there were 30 skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed road when I first arrived, today I’ve lost count, including some of the world’s tallest buildings and 25-star hotels. All signs point to growth.

How have you managed to grow and develop your product, your company and your team over the past 3 years while so many other startups die after barely launching?

Baraka (roughly translate to blessings), hard work and a low burn rate. In this game (startup) the only thing that is not forgivable is to run out of money :). Having said that , we have a great team that works with passion and determination. We all know that we are building something fantastic, something that will make a difference in our world, and that our time will come … We have the right product, in the right place, at the right time. These things are starting to align and we are seeing progress everyday.

It is also incredibly important to be aware of your surroundings and the context we are in. Knowing the users, the socioeconomic context, the funding environment, investor sentiment, other products making waves…these things are important in the decision-making process. A lot of founders just focus on internal data and metrics, that’s really not going to give you enough information to make good decisions. For example, we have the ability to grow very fast. However, considering the current economic and funding environment, growing too fast will mean that we shorten our runway at a time when fundraising is difficult. So these external considerations need to be accounted for when making internal decisions.

What is most important to you right now?

Our users have been and continue to be the most important thing to us. We are continually working to improve the user experience, be it via technology or operations or customer service. To this end, we need to execute fast and to keep ourselves on top of the game. It is all about pleasing the user by building the right features and improve operations to increase new users while retaining old ones.

As the CEO, I don’t do the actual work and all credit goes to my team. However, my job is to build an organization where everyone can achieve their objectives and goals unimpeded. I focus my attention on supporting and building the organization and creating a work environment where talented people can do their thing. Borrowing a page from one of today’s most successful CEOs, Jack Ma, if we take care of the customer and the team, everything else follows.

Why We Built A No-Meetup Classifieds In the Dubizzle Era

When we first launched Melltoo in 2014, we saw ourselves as classifieds on mobile. Everything was moving to mobile, except classifieds. Online classifieds were still just electronic notice boards. We saw the opportunity to bring classifieds into the post-smartphone era and to take advantage of hardware capabilities like geolocalization, instant messaging, and push notifications. The rise of social networks also brought about a paradigm-shift, every product became social, so why not social classifieds?

To be clear, we didn’t pick classifieds from a long list of industries needing disruption after, classifieds has always been in the blood of the founders. Morrad Irsane, co-founder and CEO of Melltoo grew up around buying and selling second-hand. While raising a family of 13 children in France, Morrad’s mother regularly re-used clothes and hand-me-downs were standard. During their annual summer break in Algeria, she had a thriving side business reselling clothing she collected from France.When Morrad invested his savings to launch Melltoo in 2014, he was reviving an old family tradition. Morrad envisioned a mobile app he could take with him anywhere, with a built-in chat so he would never miss a deal.

Finding ourselves

As with all first-time founders, we thought that we would build it and they would come. Launch an app and everyone would use it. We were wrong.

While we grew in our first year, it was a struggle. We had to get creative. We experimented with many different user acquisition models, content marketing, social media, app store optimization, SEO, spamming, even offline events. Name it, we’ve probably done it. In fact, our downloads were healthy with over 500 new users daily with almost no marketing spend.

But, there was no WOW moment. Users came, they tried, they left. Meh. “The app is cool, but…”

While our first iteration was not a huge success, it gave us plenty of opportunity to talk to our users and this is what we discovered.

User Objection 1: “I would like to use your app, but I don’t have anything to sell.”

When someone says this, it isn’t because he doesn’t have something to sell, it’s because he doesn’t want to sell his stuff. Search a bit more and you’ll discover that what he’s really saying is: “I don’t need the money so I don’t want the hassle of selling my stuff.” Yes, selling via traditional classifieds is a hassle. In some cases, it’s downright torture. The main problem is meetups. List something for sale, get a bunch of phone calls from strangers at all times of the day and night, get lowball offers and then take time out to meet with multiple buyers before one finally buys (or not). If you don’t need to, why would you?

User Objection 2: “I don’t trust buying second hand, there are too many scammers.”

Web classifieds are no-man’s land. Anything goes. List something for sale and get an offer from the wife of the ex-president of some unknown country on a continent halfway around the world. People ask you to ship them stuff cash on delivery. You get spammed. Who do you trust, who can you trust?

User Objection 3: “Your app is cool, but nobody is talking to me to buy my stuff.”

Lesson 1: Peruse the startup literature and it is littered with the idea that founders must be “obsessed with the product.” There is no doubt that a great product is important, but a great product that nobody uses is still a flop. It is much more useful to be obsessed with the customer.

Lesson 2: 2-sided marketplaces are among the most difficult businesses to build. You need buyers and sellers, but buyers don’t go where there are no sellers and sellers won’t go where there are no buyers. What do you do?

Armed with this knowledge, we began to realize that classifieds didn’t simply need to be moved from web to mobile and the problem wasn’t one of technology and UI/UX. The problem was that classifieds was broken. People have stopped trusting classifieds and hate the hassle involved. They use it only when necessary, which meant when selling a used car or home and large items that needed to be disposed of, such as furniture. Anything less was simply not worth it. And just like that, we saw an opportunity to re-imagine classifieds, no-meetup classifieds.

Ex-COO of OLX-Dubizzle MEA, joins Melltoo

2017-03-05 | Dubai, UAE

Ex-COO of OLX-Dubizzle MEA, Anvita Varshney, joins Melltoo’s board of advisors.

Morrad Irsame, co-founder and CEO, launched Melltoo, the no-meetup classifieds, in March 2014 in Dubai. According to Mr. Irsane, “Anvita brings us a vast amount of experience in classifieds, marketplaces, and ecommerce, having previously worked in the C-suite at Lazada and OLX-Dubizzle. We are thrilled to have her on board and look forward to working closely with her.”

Ms. Varshney, who also spends time advising leading corporates and VC’s in the region on digital business models, is currently a founding member at the Dubai Angel Investors group. She joined Melltoo because of the disruption Melltoo is bringing to the traditional classifieds model. “Melltoo is reinventing the classifieds space by bringing convenience and trust to customers with ease of shipping and payments, and enabling C2C cross-border trade which has a huge potential in the region”

Also joining the board are Loic Falletta and Sanjiv Purushotham. Mr. Falletta started hacking at the age of 13 and became a white hat hacker at the age of 20. He founded Yinkozi Ltd, an international cyber-security consultancy and a recognized security professional. In this capacity, he has worked on digital payments security for the top 30 largest banks in Canada, Europe and South Africa. Mr. Purushotham is a payments and lending expert with nearly three decades of senior level experience with American Express and MasterCard across AsiaPac, Middle East and Africa.

“Melltoo will be launching an exciting digital payments product that builds upon our existing marketplace. Loic and Sanjiv are digital payments experts and having them on board is critical to the success of Melltoo Pay,” says Mr. Irsane.

Mr. Falletta: “I believe that ensuring trust in digital payment will pave the route towards a cashless society. Melltoo has the potential to be its flag bearer in the Middle East and I’m excited to work with them on making it happen.”

Mr. Purushotham shares Mr. Falletta’s enthusiasm, explaining: “”Electronic peer2peer (P2P) payments have seen significant take-up across geographies as diverse as Kenya and Sweden. Melltoo Pay has an interesting model that engages customers in P2P transactions by providing them with a reason to do so.”

Melltoo, the no-meetup classifieds

Melltoo, a no-meetup classifieds, is a peer2peer marketplace for secondhand things. Users buy and sell preloved electronics, fashion, home and kids items through the app without meetups. Melltoo handles payment and delivery and provides a money-back guarantee on every item purchased through the app. The marketplace has over 100K+ registered users with over 25K+ completed transactions to date. Melltoo Pay is a peer2peer payments product that builds upon the existing marketplace infrastructure. Melltoo Pay is currently in beta and will launch to the public in Q2.                              

Press contact: Sharene Lee, sharene@melltoo.me, +971-50-237-4957.