Nearly all of us have lingering items we don’t want or need, and the recent holidays might have added a few goods to the pile. Clothes you can’t stand. The ugly heirloom figurine or outdated electronics item. Too much stuff.
Goodwill is a go-to for offloading many items, but drop-off lines in Seattle can stretch blocks and some wares are too breakable for plopping into donation bins. Other goods are worth selling, but that requires the time and hassle of creating listings, and can require scheduling and haggling with strangers. Depending on the fees involved, the whole deal might not pencil out.
Sella, a Portland, Ore.-based startup, wants to solve the challenge of resale, taking over the process for a flat rate of $5.99 per item, plus 20 cents a day until it sells. Larger items and those sold on eBay cost slightly more.
“There’s this enormous trapped economic potential in closets and garages, worth hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Sella founder Byron Binkley. “You need to provide the catalyst.”
In addition to the economic benefits, Binkley hopes to help the environment. He’s eager to provide a new avenue for pulling items out of the waste stream or storage and into reuse.
Binkley started exploring the resale space a few years ago with a focus on nonprofits receiving and selling donated goods. In 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, he began working on personal, for-profit sales. In January 2021, he launched Sella’s current approach with about a dozen sellers.
The startup pays gig economy workers to accept goods for sale from people looking to get rid of various items, to create and post listings on sites including Craigslist, eBay and OfferUp, and to handle the sales transactions.
While many entrepreneurs and startups have tackled resale, Binkley thinks he has the right model at the right time. The gig economy has become a more developed sector; the public is comfortable with interacting with gig workers; the model doesn’t use centralized warehouses or receiving sites for processing and selling items; and it’s ramping up during supply chain shortages that are reducing the availability of new goods.
The service is currently offered primarily in Portland, with the goal of expanding to additional cities.
Here’s more on how Sella works, how it compares to other resale services and why Binkley thinks his approach can scale.
The process: The Sella model is based on a network of “microwarehouses” — essentially gig economy workers who create listings, store items for sale and conduct sales transactions.
- Sella users in the Portland area drop off an unwanted item at the location of a local seller or schedule a pick up. Smaller items can be mailed from anywhere in the country. All items are insured by Sella against theft or damage.
- A Sella worker photographs the item and creates a listing and price based on information from the seller and online research. The seller approves the post before it goes live.
- The item is posted across five platforms including Craigslist, eBay and OfferUp. Buyers can search for items offered by Sella.
- A buyer purchases and picks up the item from the Sella worker, or pays for shipping.
- The seller receives payment after the buyer accepts and approves of the item.
The competition: People with unwanted items can donate them; sell directly through sales platforms; sell them through a physical consignment store or pawnshop; or use an online resale site.
Sella handles a wide range of items compared to resale sites that specialize in certain goods, like Decluttr for music and electronics, and thredUP for apparel.
Some resale sites and locations take a percentage of the sale price, rather than a flat fee.
Trust and safety: Sella does background checks for the people paid to sell items, just as Lyft and Grubhub screen their drivers and delivery people.
While Sella can’t guarantee that a listed Prada handbag is the real thing, its sellers include photos showing specific details that help identify the genuine article from knockoffs. Using Sella, buyers can pick up an item, take it home and make sure it’s what it claims to be and check its condition before finalizing the sale.
It’s a better approach, Binkley said, than transactions conducted in various public locations between unknown sellers and buyers.
“You don’t have to try to figure out if that Wi-Fi router works from a 7-11 parking lot,” he said. You can test it at home. “And if it doesn’t work, you have us to come back to, not the random person.”
Getting to scale: Over the past year, Binkley has focused on making sure the approach works, and is beginning to automate the processes to remove some of the labor needed to photograph, research and list items and manage sales meet-ups.
Founders and funding: Binkley and Chief Technology Officer Ari Kardasis met years ago while earning degrees in math and computer science at Brown University. Prior to Sella, Binkley has been a founder for multiple startups including Proto Software and Craver. Kardasis worked briefly as a software engineer for Amazon Web Services and is founder of game studio Space Inch.
Binkley is looking to raise funding early next year. Sella is hiring and currently has eight employees.