Founder Q&A: Bilal Khan, co-founder of Doji – a transformational marketplace for used products
What is Doji?
Doji is an end-to-end marketplace created with a mission to become the most convenient, purpose-led, and competitively priced marketplace for used tech products. Built on the proven stock exchange model, our platform is powered by sharp data science, using real-time market information to give users a frictionless buying and selling experience with none of the hassles associated with traditional marketplaces for used goods. We offer our users the greatest possible value, while helping to extend the lifecycle of used tech products to preserve the health of our planet.
What inspired you to launch the next-generation marketplace?
Both myself and my co-founders possess extensive experience in solving the complex problems in the online consumer goods and financial marketplaces. As the founding team behind Doji, we wanted to apply the proven model of the financial marketplace to a used goods context, and benefit consumers by solving and removing the vast pricing, informational, and user experience inefficiencies therein. We have structured the platform to enable e-commerce participants to benefit from the same informational, process and pricing efficiencies that drive the financial markets.
Our aim with Doji is to unlock the latent supply and demand of used products, and bring it online, offering a significant win-win for both buyers and sellers, while setting new standards in e-commerce.
Tell us about your founding team
Doji was born after spending many late nights locked up in a library with my co-founders, Fernando Montera Filho, and Satyen Fakey, who I met during our Masters programme at the University of Oxford.
Fernando, an engineer by background, is a serial entrepreneur and active angel investor in tech companies. He founded and sold his first business to Mercado Libre, Latin America’s largest online marketplace with a market cap in excess of $50 billion, where he then led the company’s logistical intelligence and planning effort. He then exited his second-founded company to a major tech company based out of San Francisco.
Satyen, is also an experienced entrepreneur who developed his expertise in e-commerce marketing and operations through Trimcraft Direct, a UK-based e-commerce business that he founded before growing it into a multi-million-pound revenue business with a global client and customer-base.
I started my career at Goldman Sachs and over the last nearly two decades I have led multi-billion-dollar investments as a private equity, growth equity and fixed income investor in both public and private markets globally and across industry sectors. I also actively pursue angel investing in tech companies.
What is the core of the problem that Doji is trying to solve?
Doji’s data models have continuously identified how both buyers and sellers of used goods are forced to settle for less than the value they originally expected to receive. It is no surprise that for example, approximately 80% of UK consumers opt not to sell their used mobile phones because prices are too low, or selling is simply too time-consuming.
We hit upon the tremendous opportunity to unlock and distribute the immense economic and environmental value trapped in used tech products. By revamping traditional e-commerce through the application of data science and proven business models, we enable the buyer, the seller and the planet alike to prosper.
How does the Doji platform work?
On Doji’s marketplace, used goods listings are simplified according to their condition via easy-to-understand quality grades, and their quality is verified by Doji, which provides instant user trust. Preset product profiles and pictures enable sellers to list items in seconds by answering a few questions on product grading. They can then set their desired selling price by placing an askingprice, or choose to be matched instantly with the highest bidder and sell immediately.Our nationwide logistics partner allows for an easy shipping service making the entire process completely hassle free while the user remains in full control and receives unprecedented information transparency.
Buyers always see the lowest price for their searched item and can set their own desired buy price by making an offer (placing a bid). This logs their bid anonymously in a transparent order book for the relevant product, providing them the flexibility to buy at a price and time that suits them. Bids and asks, broader market pricing from other platforms, alongside transaction price history on Doji’s platform, are accessible to all users in real-time, which optimises price discovery whilst solving the perennial problem of fairly pricing used items. Overall, used goods enjoy a new life and the carbon footprint from buying new is reduced.
How will marketplaces like Doji help drive the sustainability agenda?
Shopping behaviour is driven primarily to save money and create less waste, with Gen Z leading this behaviour. However, consumers currently lack access to information about the fair value of their products, and lack control over the price that they wish to pay or receive for their used items. This poor realisation of economic value is discouraging sustainable decisions.
Existing marketplaces and C2C platforms in particular, do not offer real-time, transparent data or the ability to alter prices dynamically. We believe consumers should have the option and the confidence to wait on making a trade decision in exchange for a better deal. Throw in manufacturer trade-in programs, wholesale distributors, traditional e-commerce platforms – even local shops sitting as intermediaries primarily motivated to sell more and sell new – and one can understand why it has been near-impossible for end consumers to receive their desired levels of value, customer experience and to conveniently pursue actions that drive sustainability.
At Doji, we are determined to lead the disruption to put users in control and make it simple and simultaneously valuable for them to pursue sustainable buying and selling of used consumer products at the fairest prices. Our generation’s obsession with new items is taking a serious toll on the planet. Our tech habits are creating a huge problem as every year we throw out millions of tech devices, including mobile phones, which end up in landfill and pollute our environment. We ought to fully embrace the net-zero cycle we are now in by championing the circular economy. Doji is committed to playing its part in driving sustainability by helping our community understand the impact that tech products are having on the health of our planet, and empowering our customers to make smarter buying and selling decisions by making used goods as valuable as their new counterparts.
How commoditizing used products, how does Doji benefit the consumer?
Used consumer goods such as consumer tech devices, including mobile phones, have evolved into what we view as modern day commodities. However, unlike traditional commodities like coffee or sugar, the gap between the buy and sell prices of these items is extreme, hurting end consumers and discouraging both demand and supply. Given the current fragmentation of supply and demand, lack of data transparency and information asymmetry regarding the product quality and pricing of these modern-day commodities, which largely trade on marketplaces with decentralised models that offer disjointed consumer journeys, buyer and seller alike are left with suboptimal transaction decisions.For example, an online search for a used mobile phone of a specific condition will fetch thousands of results at varying prices across different platforms, which means the material dispersion in value for literally the same item is robbing the current consumer.
Can you share an example of how Doji’s data science may help the user?
Doji’s machine learning algorithms use millions of data points including public and proprietary data to aid users in placing more assertive bids and asks. They also estimate the “time to match” to enable the best execution, that is, at a price point and time that best suits the user.
The result is that users receive unprecedented data transparency and value, whilst retaining full control of their buying and selling decisions.
You have launched with used mobile phones as your first product category. How do you view the market opportunity?
Doji is a global and multi-category business, however, we have initially launched in the UK with used mobile phones as our first product category. The mobile phone market globally is estimated to be growing eight times faster than the world population and the used mobile phone market is forecasted to reach a global value of $65 billion by 2024.
The used mobile market in the U.K. is growing three times faster than the new mobile phone market. Essentially, there are billions of pounds worth of used mobile phones just wasting away in household drawers in the UK alone, which we view as idle purchasing power. Furthermore, the source of e-waste from mobile phones and tech products in general, is a serious cause for environmental concern, and strongly warrants the need for a platform like Doji to reduce the dependency on new products by solving for simplification and value optimisation for trading used goods, and thereby increasing the lifecycle of used tech products.
It is also worth noting that a new phone can cost you a staggering £1,000, whereas the estimated annual UK household income is just £30,000. This makes buying a 1- or 2-year-old device, with largely the same functionality as a newer model, at 30% – 50% lower cost an incredibly attractive proposition. The opportunity is even greater when you consider lower GDP per capita countries, which are natural target markets given our experience and our business and investor base networks.
The used tech goods market will continue to accelerate into 2022 and beyond, and the focus for Doji is to encourage users and drive this growth through our effortless and trusted end-to-end process.