Interview with Swapit, a mobile app for buying local
We interviewed Patrick Kosiol, the co-founder of Swapit.la, Hong Kong's leading mobile app that allows you to easily buy and sell stuff nearby.. They just got accepted into the Facebook's FbStart program that helps early stage mobile startups. What inspired you to create it the Swap It App?
I just recently became a dad. Before my daughter was born, I had to buy the usual baby stuff and that’s quite expensive in Hong Kong. My colleague William introduced me to the buy and sell groups on Facebook and I managed to get a car seat and a baby cot for less than half the retail price. The whole process to finally have the item you want, was rather cumbersome. Having built so many apps over the years, it was obvious that we can create an outstanding user experience on mobile, which in return allows buyers and sellers to find each other quickly and communicate easily.
How long did it take to get the app created? And did you do in in-house or outsource? What were some challenges in creating the app?
We started working on Swapit right before Christmas last year. Just a few weeks after, we launched a private beta with just 20 handpicked folks. The initial feedback from them was so good that we immediately knew, we have something worth pursuing here. So we kept working on it, improving the user experience and adding more value for the user. Combined, our team has over 37 years of experience in building mobile apps. So from a technical stand-point, we have no challenge in accomplishing our mission. We naturally build everything in-house and believe that’s the best and most efficient way to bring more features and a better user experience to our customers.
What’s the second-hand market like in HK?
Believe it or not, the second-hand trading market in Hong Kong is very vivid. If I look at only the English-speaking audience on Facebook, then we have 120,000 people that trade second hand goods today. On average, each trader sells 1-2 items per months at an average of around $200 per item. That alone creates a total market size of $360 million annually. Again, that’s only the English-speaking audience on Facebook. There is another large multitude of locals that do the same in Chinese and on other platforms like Yahoo!
What are some of the oddest things people have posted on SwapIt?
It’s really interesting what people have to sell. There is for example, a sun tanning tower for sale right now. So if you want to get a tan while standing up right in your living room, you can get it on Swapit. There are also some ordinary things like new fashion or quality brand handbags that seem to be rather popular to trade. Someone is selling a treasure box on Swapit. I am not sure what’s in there, but I am curious to find out. You can also get an e-guitar, mobile phones, accessories, perfume and even Breitling watches.
How did you decide on the .LA extension for the domain?
Well, we wanted to call our product and service “Swapit”. As swapit dot com was taken, we decided to look at alternatives and swapit.la was still available. While the “la” is more popular in Singapore, we can also hear it in Hong Kong from time to time. So it kind of works here and puts a smile on people’s faces, when we mention it. It’s kind of an ice-breaker and helps to get the conversation going.
What are some of the best ways of marketing an app?
The best of marketing our app is word-of-mouth. We are building Swapit to provide an outstanding user experience and that’s what’s driving people to recommend it to their friends. If you have a great app and provide a lot of value to your users, you can really quickly see them being enthusiastic about your product and recommending it to their peers. We also employ some “secret-sauce” marketing which I like to share from time to time on our blog: http://swapitblogit.wordpress.com
Is it used outside HK?
We are currently focusing on the Hong Kong market. We do however, have plans to officially launch in other densely populated areas. Yet, we already get some folks from other countries download Swapit and posting items in their local markets. That’s absolutely great to see and we will pursue this more, when the time is right.
A lot of HK-born people prefer to buy new things, do you think that’s changing?
While Swapit is geared towards trading pre-loved goods, it is also possible to sell brand new items. Say for example, you get an iPhone 6S from your boyfriend, but you much rather prefer to use your BlackBerry Passport, then you can easily re-sell your iPhone on Swapit as a new item at a small discount. So in that sense, we are offering the public a local platform to trade their goods - new and used. Yet, at the same time, I believe there a large group of people in Hong Kong who are fine with buying pre-loved goods. For example, there is an audience of mainly young and fashionable women who love to wear the latest shoes. Once they wore them a couple of times, they want new ones to change their style. Yet, those shoes are still perfectly fine and might fit to other women’s change in style right now. That’s just one example of how trading pre-loved goods can make our live more diverse. On top of that, to some small extend, we believe we can contribute to reduce the production of waste in Hong Kong and we are seeing more and more people become more aware of protecting the environment. So by buying pre-loved goods, you can help reduce waste and even save some dollars on your purchase. With Swapit we are providing a vivid platform to trade pre-loved goods in Hong Kong, in a hyper-local manner that allows to easily trade with your neighbors nearby.