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Spotlight on Startups: Orchard is "the only app you'll need when the iPhone 6 launches" in September

U of T computer science and MBA alumni helps users re-sell iPhones, fast

(images courtesy Orchard)

The 'out with the old and in with the new' philosophy of many iPhone users means that when the latest version rolls out next month, Apple disciples around the world will be ditching banged-up older handsets without remorse.

And, while most people just toss their used phones into a drawer considering to be either an heirloom antique or a sunk cost, one startup from University of Toronto alumni is offering a way to turn those de facto paperweights into hundreds of dollars of cash.

"People can decide how quickly they want their phone sold and how much they’re willing to part with it for — all on one screen," says computer science alumnus Hamza Javed, co-founder of an app called Orchard. (Read more about Orchard)

Javed says he and co-founders Bruno Wong and Alex Sebastian, a Rotman MBA grad, developed Orchard to make re-selling iPhones a simple, safe and viable process for anyone across Canada, regardless of market know-how.

Orchard caught the attention of The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Macleans and more.  The combination of media-propelled buzz and user interest drove the organization's growth from a coffee-shop-based startup in 2013 to a staffed company poised to make a serious dent in the U.S. market later this year.

"We’ve really grown to answer the demand that we’ve heard from Canadians," says Javed, explaining the recent addition of a "concierge" function in the app, which tailors the re-selling process to the needs of each user.

Javed spoke with U of T News about what's next for Orchard.

What does your startup do?
Orchard is an online concierge service that makes buying and selling used iPhones incredibly safe, easy and fair. We built the first app of its kind that automatically runs a full diagnostic check on your phone and, based on its condition and what identical devices are selling for on other marketplaces, finds you its fair market value. We use this app as a way to help people sell their used iPhones and as a tool to help us ensure the quality of the used iPhones that we sell to our buyers.

How did you arrive at the concept for your startup?
We identified the need for a better system to buy and sell used devices. After doing some digging, we discovered that $9 billion worth of used iPhones are left to collect dust in sock drawers every year and more than 75% of people do not consider the value of their used hardware to be worth the effort of selling it. This suggested to us that the current process available from large retailers and online classifies is inconvenient, unsafe and unreliable. Orchard was founded to be the answer to this problem, providing Canadians with safe, secure and affordable options for used devices.

How's everything been going since your launch?
Great! We launched the beta version of the Orchard app in late 2013 and grew into our e-commerce platform in March of 2014. We’re seeing a lot of great press — we were hailed as the only app you’ll need when the iPhone 6 launches in September — and we’re working hard to expand to supporting Android devices soon.

How will your startup change the world, the lives of our readers, or the future of your sector?
We’d like to become the go-to solution for anyone who wants to buy or sell a used electronic device. We’re looking to achieve this goal by empowering our users and offering them tools to ensure that they walk away with a phone that meets or exceeds their expectations.

Most buyers of used electronic devices don’t know what to look for past a crack in the screen, so we want to help people navigate quality checks on the actual guts of their devices. Our app is a tool that helps users do this, which we offer people for free even if they don’t want to sell their phone with us.

We also built a free IMEI check for anyone who is buying a used phone off of a stranger. They just enter the phone’s IMEI, which checks that it has not been reported as lost/stolen/blacklisted from use in Canada.

We’re looking to continue to build and innovate in this direction. We hate to think that there are so many perfectly good used devices being left to rot because the buying and selling process can be so overwhelming, so we’re doing everything we can to make sure these used devices find a good home.

How did U of T help you develop your concept? 
U of T helped in a few ways. I was introduced to a good courses that definitely helped shape my convictions of going the entrepreneur route. These were “Business of Software” taught by former instructor Arnold Wytenburg and “Technical Entrepreneurship” by Paul Salvini. Both these instructors bought their extensive experience to the table that was very helpful.

I also met my co-founders at U of T. One the co-founders, Alex, was doing his MBA at Rotman at the time and we had mutual friends who introduced us. I had made it well known to my friends that I was interested in entrepreneurship and Orchard was looking for a CTO and co-founder to get off the ground at the time.

What have you been up to since graduation?
As of February, I have been working full time on Orchard, out of our office at a co-working studio called MakeWorks. As the CTO, my day-to-day consists of directing the build of our business’s infrastructure, both online and on mobile. I’m also looking forward to continuing to devote my time to finding new opportunities for Orchard to grow and leverage the exciting things we’re building.

What’s next for your startup?
We are going start raising our second round of investment shortly. The big benchmark we’re looking forward to is the iPhone 6 launch in September. After that, we have our sights set on entering the U.S. market in late 2014/early 2015.

Brianna Goldberg writes about entrepreneurship for U of T News.

The Spotlight on Startups series features the many entrepreneurial efforts growing from the hundreds of companies spun out from research and connections sparking every day at the University of Toronto:

U of T hosts more than 50 enterprise-fostering courses, programs, labs, clubs, contests and speaker series across its faculties, departments and campuses — and then there are all the innovations developing in informal settings. U of T ranks No. 1 in North America for number of startups launched. And its roster of spin-off companies driving innovation in Toronto and around the world continues to grow.

Visit the University of Toronto entrepreneurship site to learn more about U of T's enterprise-fostering courses, labs, programs and more.