A Q&A with Auctionopia founder Tom Popomaronis. The Phoenix, Maryland–based company was founded in 2009, and the website launched to the public last year.
SUB: Please describe what Auctionopia is, and the value proposition you bring to online auctions.
Popomaronis: Auctionopia is a 100 percent free online auction company and we have incorporated instant messenger as the primary means of communication and negotiation between buyer and sellers.
SUB: What are your target markets?
Popomaronis: Online retailers, ecommerce owners, auction buyers and sellers, and any business with inventory.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Popomaronis: The entire online marketplace, really. Of course I can say eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Artfire, and Bonanza, but we aim to bring all buying and selling markets together under one interactive and free platform.
SUB: What differentiates Auctionopia from the competition?
Popomaronis: Our instant message platform is such an exciting tool. It provides users with the ability to communicate live in real-time and negotiate over the price with one another. We’ve also incorporated a “bulk uploader” which allows sellers to place their inventory on our site.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Popomaronis: Auctionopia LLC was founded in 2009. To be honest, I had one of those, “uhh, what do I do now?” type thoughts. I did what any reasonable person would do, and surrounded myself with those who were more experienced, and could guide me down the right path. Specifically, we had to incorporate, establish a core team, and begin mapping out what we aimed to accomplish and how we were going to do it with our resources.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Auctionopia? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Popomaronis: Ah, I remember this like it was yesterday. I was a junior in college. I did a lot of online buying and selling, and I specifically remember listing a product on eBay one day, paying for a listing, sitting back, and being like “so..this is it?”. It was a cold experience, and I was paying for it. At that point, I realized that there needed to be a more dynamic way to bring buyers and sellers together, and for free. That was the “spark”.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Popomaronis: Persevering, hands down. In late 2007, I had the concept of the site. It’s taken three-and-a-half years of “growing pains” as I like to call it, for everything to come together. We initially worked with programmers overseas. Communication barriers existed where my vision would not always effectively be relayed. This resulted in increased turnaround times and higher costs. I often refer to it as a puzzle; it took some time for me to put the pieces together, but now, there’s quite a good fit.
SUB: You recently launched the site publicly. Why was this a particularly good time to launch?
Popomaronis: It was “time”. I tend to be a little particular on how everything is supposed to look and function (founder’s demise right there), but I woke up one day, had a conversation with one of my partners, and realized that the site will never be “perfect”. A start-up, especially, will always have bugs and glitches to fix, but it’s making a continual effort to rectify those issues. Keeping your customers happy will separate you from the crowd. It was time to let her fly.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Popomaronis: I think a majority of startups come to these crossroads at some point, and it all depends on where you’re at and what your goals are. For us, specifically, we have a core group of users that have substantiated the demand for our service. This, in turn, validates what we’re doing at a small level. Sure, it gets us thinking about what flexibility we would have with more capital at our disposal. Certainly not opposed to it, and it may be in the forecast.
SUB: What are your goals for Auctionopia over the next year or so?
Popomaronis: Building awareness throughout the marketplace is critical. I want buyers, sellers, and business owners to know that there is a free alternative where they can retain more of their earnings, all the while engaging in an interactive negotiating platform. We certainly see global potential with Auctionopia. Haggling and negotiation is almost an art form shared by many cultures that we feel will be embraced at the international level with our model.
Auctionopia – www.auctionopia.com