A Q&A with Tradesy founder and CEO Tracy Dinunzio. The Santa Monica, California–based company was founded in 2009 and raised $1.5 million in Series A funding in mid-October. Investors include Rincon Venture Partners, Dave McClure, Dany Levy—founder of DailyCandy, Daher Capital, Bee Partners, Double M Capital and Launchpad LA.
SUB: Please describe Tradesy and your value proposition.
Dinunzio: Tradesy is the easiest way to buy and sell women’s fashion online. We make it quick and simple to sell the clothing and accessories you don’t wear, and turn your closet into cash. You can also use Tradesy to buy fashion treasures from other women’s closets at up to 90 percent off retail. Tradesy makes it possible to get the wardrobe of your dreams on any budget.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Dinunzio: Our members tend to be women who are post-college and pre-baby. They’re busy, style-conscious women who want the designer fashion they love at a price that works for their budget.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Dinunzio: I think we have a very unique approach to this market, and therefore don’t compete directly with many of the other sites in the resale space. But the most obvious answer is eBay, because they’re the best known peer-to-peer marketplace.
SUB: What differentiates Tradesy from the competition?
Dinunzio: We make it faster and easier than ever to turn your closet into cash. It takes less than 60 seconds to list an item for sale on Tradesy, and it’s free. We take care of shipping through a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, sending our sellers a pre-paid shipping kit that they simply drop their sold item into and hand to their postman—they don’t even have to leave the house. And Tradesy is the first peer-to-peer marketplace that directly accepts customer returns, ensuring that our buyers are satisfied and that our sellers don’t have to take the returns themselves.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Dinunzio: The company was founded in 2009, when we launched our first site, RecycledBride.com, which is now the world’s largest wedding marketplace. We bootstrapped Recycled Bride to profitability in under a year, learned a lot about customer behavior, and proved our business model. After conquering the wedding market, we expanded into the larger women’s fashion market with Tradesy.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Tradesy? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Dinunzio: We wanted a name that was short, descriptive, and memorable, like other big marketplaces that have become household names. If you think about past successes in the space, it’s really been all about eBay, then Etsy, and now, Tradesy.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Dinunzio: I think that for most entrepreneurs, every day is filled with obstacles. In the beginning, it was a challenge just to keep the lights on while staying laser-focused on the business. At every stage, it’s difficult to find good technology partners and talent, and I definitely took many missteps in that department before finding the right people. When it came time to raise capital for the first time, that presented new challenges, and I had to learn quickly how to pitch on my feet—and how to handle lots of rejection, which is an inevitable part of the fundraising process. Being part of the Launchpad LA incubator program really made all the difference during that phase. The one obstacle we haven’t faced is user acquisition. We’ve been very lucky so far—our customers love our product and share it with their friends, which helps us grow and is very rewarding for the team.
SUB: You recently raised $1.5 million in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Dinunzio: We’re mostly using it to grow our team. Until last March, the whole company was just me and an outsourced development team. Now we’re up to nine full-time employees, and are hiring quickly but carefully. I really believe that the best thing you can do with financing is to attract and retain top-level talent.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise more outside funding?
Dinunzio: Here in Los Angeles, we’re seeing an explosion of great incubators and startups that are attracting venture capital to the area. It’s a very exciting time to be here, and the rapid growth of the startup community means that more L.A. entrepreneurs have access to more capital than any other time in recent memory. But I think it’s important to note that raising funding is hard for everybody, even under the best circumstances. I remember starting out and seeing a lot of companies get funded, which can give early or first-time entrepreneurs the impression that it’s easy, or worse—that there’s something wrong with your company if you’re not attracting tons of attention from VCs. It takes a lot of time and hard work to raise money, even in a frothy market.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Dinunzio: We take a 9 percent commission on all sales, and also earn revenue from advertising partners.
SUB: What are your goals for Tradesy over the next year or so?
Dinunzio: Growth, growth, and more growth. Our team is religiously devoted to providing incredible customer service, and to constantly refining our product so that it becomes an indispensable part of our customers’ lives. We believe that our commitment to excellence and to our customers will help us to spread the word about Tradesy and attract a significant audience over the next year. We’re also only available to U.S. customers right now, and are planning to expand into international markets soon.
Tradesy – www.tradesy.com