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‘It should be a right to fix your phone’: the boss of booming secondhand tech firm Back Market

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses Thibaud Hug de Larauze, the CEO of the French startup Back Market, which operates an online marketplace for refurbished electronic devices. The article highlights Back Market's mission to promote sustainability and reduce electronic waste by encouraging the purchase and repair of pre-owned gadgets.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Thibaud Hug de Larauze and Back Market

1. What is Thibaud Hug de Larauze's background and role at Back Market?

  • Thibaud Hug de Larauze is the CEO of Back Market, one of France's biggest "unicorn" startups that has raised over $1 billion to expand into 18 countries.
  • He co-founded Back Market in 2014 with two friends, Quentin Le Brouster and Vianney Vaute, inspired by working with refurbishment specialists selling on platforms like eBay.
  • Hug de Larauze identifies as an "eco-warrior" rather than a tech guru, and is focused on persuading people to buy pre-owned phones, laptops, and other devices, and repair or recycle their old ones.

2. What are Back Market's key offerings and growth?

  • Back Market now sells 200 different types of refurbished gadgets, from smartphones and laptops to baby monitors and gaming consoles, in 18 countries.
  • The company has experienced rapid growth, with sales increasing by 45% in 2021 to €320 million, making it about a quarter the size of UK online electrical goods retailer AO.
  • The UK is Back Market's fastest growing country, with sales up 80% year-on-year, as people seek more affordable and sustainable tech options.

3. How does Back Market operate and ensure quality?

  • Back Market does not acquire or hold stock, or carry out refurbishment itself. Instead, it works with 1,700 traders and refurbishers who are rigorously screened before being allowed to list on the platform.
  • Sellers get their products from various sources, including telecom companies that offer trade-ins and upgrades to clients.
  • Back Market is now focused on profitability, having pulled back on hiring and pausing expansion into new territories or product categories to maximize its established position.

[02] Environmental Impact and Legislation

1. What is the environmental impact of new technology and the benefits of refurbishment?

  • New technology contributes over 1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, about 3% of the global total, making it the 7th biggest contributor.
  • Mending a smartphone just once can save over 77 kg of carbon emissions, helping to reduce the environmental impact and electronic waste problem.

2. How is legislation evolving to support the circular economy and right to repair?

  • "Right to repair" legislation is being introduced across the EU by 2026, forcing manufacturers to make spare parts and technical information available for phones, tablets, and kitchen appliances.
  • In the UK, right to repair legislation was introduced in 2021, but only covers a limited number of items like large kitchen appliances and TVs.
  • Hug de Larauze wants the legislation to go further to truly transition people to circularity and repair, involving all product categories and requiring manufacturers to design for repairability and longevity.
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