I’m an optimist so I’d prefer to approach this from a place of positivity. Perhaps obvious, but people who are happy, work harder, collaborate with others better, and are more self-motivated. You won’t have to force excellence, it’ll just happen. Unhappy employees directly affect a company’s bottom line. I came across a stat a couple years ago citing that unhappy employees are 12% less productive than happy ones. I’m not surprised that that number isn’t higher. It’s logical. Unhappy employees aren’t performing at their fullest potential leading to inefficiencies in the workplace, attrition, brand damage, loss of sales, unhappy users, and the list goes on.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Huzar, OfferUp CEO and Co-Founder.
Nick Huzar is co-founder and CEO of OfferUp, the largest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers in the U.S. As a new father, he realized a massive opportunity in the mobile marketplace when he needed to sell his belongings to make room for his newborn, with very limited online options. A pioneer in reinventing local commerce, Nick revolutionized the industry and launched OfferUp in 2011 to create the simplest, most trustworthy way for people to buy and sell in their communities. Nick holds a B.A. in Management Information Systems from Washington State University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us about the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My wife and I were expecting our first baby and we faced a classic American problem: we had an upstairs room full of stuff, and we didn’t have enough space to actually live in. I wished there was an easy way to sell all of the items I no longer wanted or needed, but it didn’t exist. So, I created it. At the time — back in 2011 — peer-to-peer marketplaces existed, but they were stuck in the dot-com era: difficult to use and hard to navigate on mobile phones. So we made a few assumptions that turned out to be the right ones: that everyone would begin using smartphones more, that phone cameras would get better, and that people would be willing to pay for things directly from their phones for increased efficiency.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My greatest supporter and the person who has always believed in me is my wife. When I first started OfferUp, I had a young child and one soon to come in the future, but I quit my job to work on the app full time. This was a family decision and I’m so grateful to her for being the perfect partner to support my dream. I’d work hours upon hours trying to refine the experience, and then it took months of travel and conversations to secure interest from investors who believed in my vision. Creating a startup is incredibly hard because many times you’re the only one that sees the full vision, but if you want to grow and get the resources you need to be successful, you have to be great at building an initial product and great at convincing your family, your first employees, and your investors that your idea is feasible.
I’m from the Seattle area and wanted to build my company here, but this town isn’t known for having a lot of consumer startups. So it took many, many visits to Silicon Valley to find investors and I heard many people say “no”. You can’t worry about the word “no”, because all you need is a few great people to say yes, and then it’s off to the races.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
I’m proud to say OfferUp is the largest mobile marketplace in the U.S. for local transactions, and since the app has been downloaded 85M+ times, we’ve got millions of people exchanging billions of dollars worth of items every year. That scale is amazing and I’m proud that we’ve been able to make it easier for people to find success exchanging items locally, as well as across the U.S. with our shipping option.
What’s amazing is how OfferUp has meant so much more to our users than I could have imagined. OfferUp is uplifting communities economically. We’re giving Americans a platform to lead more sustainable lives through resale. I’ve met hundreds of people in my travels around the country who have been able to earn much-needed extra income through OfferUp, or whose small businesses have thrived because of our marketplace.
We’ve also built a thriving office culture at OfferUp with over 260 employees. Our Seattle HQ has more than 50 different conference rooms themed to match our top market cities, decked out in items purchased on OfferUp. It’s a collaborative, exciting environment for team members to come to work every day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Before I graduated from college and entered the business world, I thought all adults were consummate professionals and the regular path was to go to work every day promptly at 8am and go home. But after I started my career and started to work with colleagues, managers and executives, I realized we’re all just big kids, and there’s something to learn every day. I don’t have a specific funny story about any failures per say, but the first few years of working in an office showed me that we all continue to grow as people as we grow in our careers — there’s so much to learn!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When it comes to buying and selling within your community, OfferUp takes safety very seriously. We partner directly with police departments across the nation and have created more than 2,000 Community MeetUp Spots, which are public locations that are well-lit and monitored 24/7, and serve as a safer place for people to exchange items they buy online. In fact, OfferUp is the only local marketplace that provides free training to law enforcement agencies, participates in community safety initiatives and speaks alongside industry leaders about trust and safety in the peer to peer marketplace. Consumers can find safety tips on our website and company blog.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I’m an optimist so I’d prefer to approach this from a place of positivity. Perhaps obvious, but people who are happy, work harder, collaborate with others better, and are more self-motivated. You won’t have to force excellence, it’ll just happen.
Unhappy employees directly affect a company’s bottom line. I came across a stat a couple years ago citing that unhappy employees are 12% less productive than happy ones. I’m not surprised that that number isn’t higher. It’s logical. Unhappy employees aren’t performing at their fullest potential leading to inefficiencies in the workplace, attrition, brand damage, loss of sales, unhappy users, and the list goes on.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
OfferUp is the largest online marketplace in the US for local buyers and sellers and has over 85+ million downloads to date.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
OfferUp makes money several ways, but all of them are designed to make it easier for people to buy and sell. Among our millions of listings, we also feature native ads, which we see as a way to provide more options for buyers. For example, if you are searching for a coffee table, you will see mostly local independent sellers’ items listed, with a handful of ads from larger companies as well. It was important for us to keep the ratio of ads to independent sellers low, since a local buying experience is what we are at heart.
Sellers can pay a nominal fee to promote their listings as well, which help with their items’ visibility to potential customers. We also offer nationwide shipping, and there’s a small fee involved with shipping your items.
Last, but not least, is our extremely successful autos business. Thousands of dealers across the U.S. use OfferUp to sell their cars locally, and last year we created OfferUp Autos. It’s a membership program which includes a set of digital tools which help dealers better connect and communicate with buyers who are looking to find a great deal.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Validate your product with real customers. I was one of OfferUp’s first users (as a new dad selling things throughout my house) and I continue to use the app all of the time. I asked friends and family to use the app and help me test things. In fact, I asked them to give me brutal feedback because it’s only through consistent and honest criticism that you can realize your strengths and grow
- It always takes way longer than you think. Persistence and perseverance matters more than anything. If you believe in your idea, you need to take the time to see it to fruition. If you keep going, especially when times get tough, luck will find a way
- Finding the right people is hard — network a ton. The people you choose to work with are your most valuable asset, so you need to make sure you invest in your relationships. Be in a constant state of improving your team and choose people who are as driven as yourself.
- In the beginning, choose to believe in yourself and your vision. Most other people won’t, that’s okay. When you’re in your really early stages of development and fundraising, not everyone will choose to invest in your idea, and that’s okay. Having people that don’t see the vision is great, because it means at that point, they aren’t funding the competition
- Make health and personal time a priority. Establishing a company and a business is a marathon and not a sprint. Take time to rest when you can, because there will be plenty of late nights. Manage your personal and spiritual health wisely, so you don’t burn out
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We are at a point in our history and culture where we need to make serious improvements to how we use, re-use, recycle and eliminate waste in our day-to-day lives. It’s no longer enough to just recycle or create more waste, so at the core of OfferUp is the idea of recommerce. How can we take the value of the items we don’t use and make it so that there’s less waste? There’s almost a trillion dollar’s worth of unused items inside American households today, so why do we keep producing and throwing away so many things? My idea for a movement is connected to this — we need to flip garbage and the waste process on its head. Instead of garbage cans being the first point of process for waste, we should start training ourselves to think about “how can this be reused, or, who would reuse this?” Garbage cans should be our last destination, not the first.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!