Paperclip is the Welsh startup taking on Amazon, eBay and Gumtree for your unwanted goods
Online marketplaces have been around for so long that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve always been a part of our lives. If you have things you no longer need, you don’t think twice about putting them on eBay to make some money back.
Given the existence of eBay, Amazon and Gumtree, though, you’d think it preposterous that anyone would want to go head to head with these established giants of commerce. How can anything else possibly beat these industry heavyweights, let alone a small startup in Wales?
Well, Paperclip thinks it can. Spun out of the business competition London Startup Weekend in 2014, Paperclip is an app-based marketplace available on Android and iOS where you can buy, sell, swap and freecycle with others locally.
The appeal is obvious: we all have stuff we don’t need, be it an old iPhone or a pair of designer skinny jeans you can no longer squeeze into. And instead of chucking them in the bin or selling them for hard cash, Paperclip lets you trade your junk for the things you need.
From a lightbulb moment to a drunk pitch
The lightbulb moment for Rich Woolley, co-founder and CEO of Paperclip, came when he was moving out of his London flat and was faced with dealing with the insurmountable task of sorting out all his things.
Rich Woolley, founder & CEO, Paperclip
“The idea struck me when I was moving out of my flat in London; there were so many things I didn’t want or need any more,” he explained. “My housemates and I swapped things frequently back at university, so I thought a tech solution to this process would be an interesting little project.” And so the concept for Paperclip was born.
The idea seemed mad at the time, but Woolley persevered. In fact, if it wasn’t for his friends spurring him on to apply for London Startup Weekend – and the help of a few pints – Paperclip may have never received investment from a New York seed fund after it won second place.
“A friend of mine suggested that I pitch the concept – a Tinder for swapping items – at London Startup Weekend, and so after a couple of pints I got up on stage and pitched it. There was a surprisingly large amount of interest for the idea.”
Clipping the competition
What sets Paperclip apart from similar apps? Well, according to Woolley, it’s different because it’s free and easy to use. Not only do you not have to pay to list items, regardless of if you make profit or not, signing up is simply a case of logging in with your Facebook account.
Interns at Paperclip’s Swansea office
“We are the only platform which allows you to buy, sell, swap and freecycle from one place. The process of signing up and adding items to eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle can be time-consuming, whereas on Paperclip it takes just seconds to add items.
“By making the process of adding an item so simple and free, we’re trying to encourage users to add all those items that they’re on the fence about to see what they can get for them.”
Full of confidence
It’s clear that Woolley is full of ambition and confidence; he believes his company can become a household name like eBay and Amazon. The emerging trend of location-based apps is something he sees as a huge benefit for his company.
“I really want Paperclip to become a ubiquitous marketplace like eBay within the next decade. We’ve seen the emerging prominence of other location-based marketplace apps over the past few years, showing that users have an appetite for a product like this.
“And the fact that investors are backing them shows that the market is in the early stages of growth and consolidation. By quickly reacting to the demands of our users and making our product as good as it possibly can be, I feel that Paperclip can become a household name.”
Indeed, Paperclip has seen a lot of success since launching last year. It’s already surpassed 30,000 downloads, despite not going through a marketing push, and was featured on Dave’s crowdfunding show The Moneypit late last year.
Only time will tell if Paperclip achieves its ultimate goal of market domination, but what’s certain is that the company has the drive needed to take on the big guys. Whether that’s enough is another question, and one that will be answered over time.