Get to know a Toronto startup: Orchard

You've recently upgraded to a new iPhone. While your shiny new toy has you on a serious device high, you can't help but get a sinking feeling every time you open your sock drawer and your rejected (and expensive) old iPhone stares you in the face. What to do?

Orchard offers a solution. Available as a web-based app or an iOS tool, this Toronto startup is an online marketplace to buy or sell a used iPhone, with many added perks to make the process easy and honest. And they're off to a solid start: the iOS app has been downloaded 3000 times since its March launch, the web app had 13,000 unique visitors last month, and transactions are growing rapidly.

If you're looking to sell an iPhone, start by downloading the app. In-app tools will assess your phone's hardware and software to make sure it's in good shape (only phones that pass these diagnostic tests can be listed on Orchard), help you describe your phone's condition, and guide you through erasing all personal data from your phone. The app will also evaluate what your phone is currently worth, determine a fair price and create a listing.

On the buyer side, Orchard's search tool helps you find a phone based on your needs and budget, and securely process your payment. When a buyer has purchased a seller's iPhone, Orchard sends the seller a pre-paid shipping box and insured shipping label filled out with the buyer's address. In an effort to keep the transaction honest, Orchard withholds payment to the seller until the phone has been confirmed as received by the buyer. Unsatisfied customers are protected by a 30-day money back guarantee.

I chatted with co-founder Bruno Wong, who told me why he and partners Alex Sebastian and Hamza Javed saw great potential behind a simple, transparent smartphone marketplace.

What was the vision behind Orchard?

It's a pretty classic story: founder has horrible experience, and decides to build something to solve his own problem. This was around the time when the iPhone 5 had just launched and I was looking to sell my iPhone 4S to cover the cost of an upgrade. I knew the best reward came from the DIY route, so I poked around Craigslist and Kijiji to see what selling would entail. I didn't make it past the first page of search results. There were too many misplaced ads for iPhone repairs and unlocking services. I founded Orchard and used it to sell my iPhone instead.

Who's your competition in this space?

If you're looking to sell a used device, there are two routes you could take. The first is through the various buyback programs offered by wireless carriers and iPhone retailers. You'll have a fairly hassle-free experience, but these programs give you about half of what your phone is actually worth. Alternatively, you can sell through Craigslist or Kijiji where you stand to get a better return. But not everyone is comfortable with trekking to meet a total stranger at a mutually-inconvenient subway station to sell their phone.

With Orchard we want to make selling both bankable and easy. You deal with us and we do all the grunt work to sell your device. We'll either find you a buyer or buy the phone from you ourselves and make sure you get paid quickly. Buyers know they can trust us and that our phones are fully functional, not stolen or damaged.

Why focus on iPhones exclusively?

We don't intend to keep our company exclusively tethered to iPhones. We envision Orchard as a solution for buying and selling all used smart devices. That being said, we're perfectionists. We want to offer the best service and we want to know our product inside and out. Sticking with iPhones right now has allowed us to build a highly accurate diagnostic app and offer our customers unparalleled service. It also doesn't hurt that there are $9 billion dollars worth of iPhones buried in sock drawers every year. They keep their value well and represent a huge slice of the smartphone market.

What's your revenue model?

We charge each seller a fee somewhere between 12-25% when their phone sells, depending on how quickly a seller wants to get paid.

What's coming up next for your startup?

Boy Genius Report called us the only app you'll need when the iPhone 6 launches, so we're bracing ourselves for this benchmark as a way to help people move their old phones once they upgrade. While we call Canada home, we've had a lot of interest in Orchard in the U.S. Making the leap across the border is definitely on our radar too.

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