New Business Lets People Trade Gadgets For Cash

Richard Littlehale and Bob Casey launched the green tech company YouRenew.com last March in New Haven, Conn. The Web site lets people trade old gadgets for cash. Littlehale and Casey tell NPR's Robert Siegel about how and why they started their business in a growing field that includes Gazelle.com and Flipswap.com. "It's unbelievable how quickly people turn over devices," Casey says.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Well, now, from geeks in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to geeks in New Haven, Connecticut. Rich Littlehale and Bob Casey join me now from the studios of Yale University to talk about a green tech business that they launched in March of last year. Yourenew.com is a Web site that lets you trade in your old gadgets for cash. There are other sites like it: gazelle.com and flipswap.com. And they are all based on what's become a booming market for refurbished tech. And Rich Littlehale, first tell us how the two of you met and came up with this idea.

Mr. RICH LITTLEHALE (Owner, yourenew.com): Bob and I met at Yale University. He was a year younger than I am, on the lightweight crew team, and we were looking for an idea and were interested in a green space, found this opportunity in the refurbishment and recycling of old electronics, and started a company with a vision, essentially, that we believe that people in larger organizations want to do the right thing with their old electronics. So we created a simple, convenient platform to do so via yourenew.com.

SIEGEL: Well Bob Casey, how does it work, actually? If I have a laptop or a mobile phone, what do I do? You're going to pay me to send that to you?

Mr. BOB CASEY (Owner, yourenew.com): That's correct. We wanted to make the process as simple and as easy to use as possible. So, you can log on to the Web site, type in your device name, answer a few simple questions about its condition and the accessories that you might have with it. We'll generate an automated offer price immediately and offer a prepaid shipping label. You can send the device in to our facility. We issue a check or payment via PayPal within 72 hours.

SIEGEL: Where is the market for used, if outmoded, laptops and mobile phones?

Mr. CASEY: There's a massive market both domestically and abroad for devices that are slightly used but that are still perfectly functional. And in extending the life of many devices that otherwise wouldn't be used, we're affording individuals the opportunity to get access to technology at significantly reduced prices.

Mr. LITTLEHALE: But, you know, part of our vision and part of our mission is also extending the ability to recycle old items that don't have any value anymore.

SIEGEL: You regard this as a green business because people might simply discard the item if they didn't recycle it?

Mr. CASEY: Yes. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of consumer electronics, especially mobile devices, are currently being recycled or reused in a responsible manner. And today, we see over 50 percent recycling rates with paper and plastics. And hopefully, some day soon, that will be the case with electronics as well.

Mr. LITTLEHALE: You know, if they're not being reused or recycled properly, it creates a tremendous waste issue. And e-waste is the fastest growing stream of trash in the United States, currently. So that's why, you know, in a way, we're excited about trying to be part of the solution.

SIEGEL: What are your biggest items, by the way? What is the item that you're dealing with most often?

Mr. CASEY: The Apple iPhone has been a perennial favorite for the last few months as many people are upgrading to newer versions.

SIEGEL: Already? I mean, you're ready getting the obsolescent iPhones coming your way?

Mr. CASEY: Yeah, the first-generation and even the second-generation iPhones. It's unbelievable how quickly people turn over devices. The average lifespan for a cell phone in the United States now is only 16 months, although it's usable for many, many years beyond that.

SIEGEL: Bob Casey and Rich Littlehale of yourenew.com. Thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. CASEY: We appreciate the opportunity.

Mr. LITTLEHALE: It's been very fun, thanks again.

SIEGEL: Don't forget to check out our blog at npr.org/alltech. One thing you'll find there is a brand-new post from a PBS "Frontline" producer about their newest documentary, "Digital Nation."

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: This is NPR.

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