We talked to Peter Windischhofer of refurbed on how to sell renewed phones, laptops and tablets which are up to 40% cheaper and 100% more environmentally friendly than their brand-new, store-bought counterparts and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Peter Windischhofer: We are doing fine, thank you! The Corona Pandemic comes along with many challenges, both privately and from a business perspective. All of us had to adjust our lifestyle to the circumstances – but we have come to terms with the new situation and are grateful that everyone is doing well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded refurbed.
Peter Windischhofer: I was a consultant at McKinsey for several years, where I advised large marketplaces and e-commerce companies in Europe. Before that, I studied business administration in Vienna, Hong Kong, Shanghai & San Francisco. I am from Upper Austria, but I have been living in Vienna for almost ten years now.
I am one of the two co-founders of refurbed. Before we founded our company, I had a negative experience with a smartphone purchase on a classifieds platform: My current model no longer worked. I wanted to buy an ecologically responsible smartphone – but I didn’t want to spend a fortune. I decided to buy a used iPhone, but it broke after a few weeks. With no warranty or guarantee, I was stuck with the cost. Looking for a better option, I remembered refurbished products I knew from my US student days. After a short research, it was clear that these products must be part of our future and represent the best alternative to the throwaway society. The idea for refurbed was born: a platform for wholly refurbished and high-quality products, uniform, high standards regarding quality, price, safety and warranty. It should enable consumers to buy sustainable devices easily and without risk. Together with Jürgen Riedl and Kilian Kaminski, I then founded refurbed in Vienna in 2017.
How does refurbed innovate?
Peter Windischhofer: We focus on sustainably changing the consumer society – step by step and always mindful of preserving the environment for future generations. We have set ourselves the goal that every European household owns at least one refurbished device. We are always looking for new ways to achieve this goal and make refurbished devices accessible to everyone. For example, we have launched “refurbed™ Easy”, “a rental model for our completely refurbished products. We also offer the first green device insurance, “refurbed™ PLUS”, that not only ensures you against all kinds of damage but also plants one tree per month. In 2021, we will build our platform to enable customers to sell their used electronic devices directly to retailers and thus return old appliances to the cycle.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Peter Windischhofer: For refurbed, as for other companies, the past year has certainly had many ups and downs. We were fortunate with the timing of our financing round in March. On the last day before the lockdown, we signed the contract with the notary. That gave us the certainty that we would come through the crisis in good shape. With “refurbed™ Easy” we quickly implemented an alternative and attractive offer at the beginning of the situation that was well received by many customers for home office and homeschooling. In general, we scored with our refurbed™ devices and the combination of sustainability, price savings and warranty.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Peter Windischhofer: We are in the fortunate position that demand for electronic equipment has increased despite, or perhaps because of, COVID 19. Home office and homeschooling made the purchase of new equipment for many households necessary. We didn’t have to downsize our team because of Corona. Instead, we grew from around 60 employees to over 100 this year.
The mental health of our employees is essential to us. We usually have numerous team events and parties. Unfortunately, that was not possible this year – so we thought of other things to promote our employees’ well-being. Every Thursday, there is a virtual meeting after work, where we chat and have a beer or two. We have also launched refurbed clubs: A program that allows our employees to pursue everyday activities, such as yoga or board games, online.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Peter Windischhofer: Making our consumption more sustainable is a matter close to my heart. That’s why I enjoy my work most of the time. If stressful situations arise, I always try to focus on the essentials and reason. Often a problem seems much worse than it is.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Peter Windischhofer: Basically, our competitors include all suppliers that sell electronic devices. The spectrum ranges from large manufacturers such as Apple to second-hand platforms such as eBay. To companies with a business model similar to ours, such as Backmarket. However, we differentiate ourselves from our competition by offering affordable electronic devices 100% more sustainable than new products. Our customers also benefit from a 30-day return policy and at least 12-months warranty. Further, we offer numerous additional services, such as our rental model or our insurance, which also set us apart from our competitors.
Your final thoughts?
Peter Windischhofer: Although this year has come with many challenges, it has shown that it is possible to be economically successful with a sustainable business model. It is incredibly gratifying to me and shows that a sustainable future is possible! We also owe our success to our employees – who give their best every day to make our world more sustainable. We are very grateful for our fantastic team and look forward to 2021 with confidence!