Announcer 00:00:08 Welcome to the Breakout Growth Podcast, where Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr interview leaders from the world's fastest-growing companies to get to the heart of what's really driving their growth. And now here are your hosts, Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr.
Sean Ellis 00:00:26 All right. In this week's episode of the Breakout Growth Podcast, Ethan Garr and I chat with Brendan Candon,CEO of SidelineSwap a marketplace for sports gear. So it's pretty common to have a closet or even a garage full of skis, sticks and balls. And if you have kids that, that are involved in athletics, then you probably know the cost of upgrading that gear from year to year can really add up. So when Brendan wanted to get back into lacrosse after playing in college, he brought some used gear from a friend, which sparked the conversation. They realized there might be an untapped opportunity and turn that conversation into an exciting growth story. So Ethan, what stood out to you?
Ethan Garr 00:01:07 Oh, man, Sean, this was a fun one. The underlying theme I think that really stood out for me the whole time was that Brendan and SidelineSwap really seem to look at the world through this lens that just continually asks, how do we all win? How do we help buyers find what they need wherever they are? How do we make it easy for sellers to trust this marketplace to avoid payment problems and so on? And how can we help our partners grow their businesses? And you know, I think when nothing is a zero sum game for them, for as a company, it just powers these, these growth loops that continue to drive the business.
Sean Ellis 00:01:38 Yeah, for sure. You know, the, the trade-in events that Brendan mentioned Yeah. Are a great example. Yeah. I'm not gonna give it all away in the introduction here, but everyone win with, with, with these, they, they win. So consumers win to sporting good stores and even local sports teams and charities. That, and that win-win outlook on the world seems to really serve them well.
Ethan Garr 00:01:59 Yeah, I think our listeners are gonna learn a lot from this conversation. You know, it started with that classic chicken and egg marketplace challenge where, you know, network effects and Cold Start problems abound, but they started with a problem that they understood. They figured out a hyper-focused starting point to validate the concept. And, you know, they did the hard work. You know, they even seeded the, the supply side of the marketplace early on themselves to kickstart that flywheel.
Sean Ellis 00:02:23 Yeah. And they had guts, you know, they took big swings, they trusted their instincts, and boy did they grind. In fact, they continue to grind, but it's paying off. Uh, they, they recently brought in an investment from D S G Ventures, which is Dick's Sporting Goods, uh, uh, kind of their, their venture fund. And that's just excellent validation of several years of figuring this all out.
Ethan Garr 00:02:46 Definitely. And it sounds like such an exciting company to work for. They have a big mission, which Brendan explained, and I have every reason to believe that they're gonna fulfill that mission and continue to accelerate. I mean, really interesting company. And I think for anyone in our audience, you know, Brendan told us they're looking to fill roles for, you know, product designer, seo, content writers, and also some roles to support those trading events we mentioned. So yeah, make sure you check out their careers page. Sounds like a really cool company.
Sean Ellis 00:03:11 Yeah, very cool company and, and just an excellent conversation. So should we jump into it or do you wanna just keep droning on?
Ethan Garr 00:03:19 Well, it's probably better if I stop jabbering, so yeah, let's get to it.
Sean Ellis 00:03:22 <laugh>. Sounds good. Hey, Brendan, welcome to the Breakout Growth podcast.
Brendan Candon 00:03:34 Hey, Sean, Ethan, thanks for having me.
Sean Ellis 00:03:36 Yeah, we're, we're super excited to have you. And as you mentioned, Ethan is here as well. Hey, Ethan.
Ethan Garr 00:03:41 Hey, Sean. Hey, Brennan. Good to have you on the podcast.
Brendan Candon 00:03:43 Yeah, appreciate you guys having me. It's gonna be fun. Yeah,
Sean Ellis 00:03:46 For sure. So, um, you're the, the co-founder and CEO of SidelineSwap and, uh, we, we may have some listeners that are familiar with it, but there's probably quite a few that aren't. So it'd be great if you, uh, give us a quick introduction to, to what it's all about.
Brendan Candon 00:04:01 Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, SidelineSwap is an online marketplace for buying and selling sporting goods. Uh, I mean, easy way to think of it really high level is we are like a eBay or a Poshmark for sports, where we connect buyers and sellers to exchange sporting goods. Uh, and we do a lot of the marketplace basics like you'd expect. So, uh, we have hundreds of thousands of listings on the platform listed by sellers all over the US and Canada. We provide a buyer guarantees for people, um, when they buy and sell through the platform. We provide pricing, guidance, shipping, uh, so it's, uh, the leading marketplace in sports. We started it in 2015. There's a little period before there we were nights and weekends. But, uh, since then we've had a couple million users join the platform. They've bought and sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of inventory through, uh, through SidelineSwap.
Brendan Candon 00:04:57 And, you know, over the course of, of the life cycle of the business, we've raised 15 million in venture capital. We've got about 30 people on the team. It's a remote team, mostly based on the east coast of the us. And, uh, we've been on a couple, like the top 100 marketplace lists, Andrews and Horowitz puts out a list every year. So SidelineSwaps been on there for the last three years or so. And, uh, and maybe just the last thing to add is that since we started the business, it's pretty much been a pure play marketplace where everything buyers and sellers send inventory to each other directly. But in the last year or so, business has evolved a little bit to include a new, uh, thing we call the trade-in platform, where we work with retailers and brands to enable resale wherever athletes shop and play.
Brendan Candon 00:05:43 So I'm sure we'll talk a little bit more about it, but you can now we'll be, have pop-up events around the country where you could bring in your used sporting goods. We'll evaluate it on the spot, and we typically pay you in the retailer's gift card, take the the inventory from you, and then we do the work to sell it. So we resell that on the marketplace. So we've got both elements, mostly the core marketplace where it's buying and selling direct, but then we also have this new element of the trade-in platform to make it even easier to sell your stuff.
Sean Ellis 00:06:10 Yeah. So one, one, uh, curiosity question on it. I, having followed eBay over the years where it used to be, you know, mostly, mostly used items, uh, increasingly you see a lot of new items on eBay. Have you do, do you have some new items that get in the mix or is it, is it pretty much all, all, uh, pre-owned merchandise?
Brendan Candon 00:06:32 So there's definitely a mix. I mean, I agree. That's actually probably one of our initial insights is when we're looking at, well, why can we do this when eBay already exists? I think there's a period, especially, uh, there's a period where eBay really focused on competing with Amazon and their seller base shifted more towards businesses and a lot more new inventory, overstock inventory, but also just, just new, uh, and less and less people selling outta their homes, their used stuff, especially in the sporting goods category. And so we've really focused on unlocking inventory from people's homes, and that's the big opportunity we saw most of the inventory is used, um, but there is about 40% that's new, but it's still in most cases actually from individuals. So. Got it. Mom bought you out,
Sean Ellis 00:07:15 Bought, never used it or
Brendan Candon 00:07:16 Something. Yeah, you didn't like it. So you can find a lot of really good deals on like new or new stuff, but it's usually still coming from an individual who just never really used it. And you can imagine how many people get excited to try a new sport and then maybe try it once or never actually get out there. And, and so never
Sean Ellis 00:07:35 Happened to me, but yeah, I can imagine other people, yeah. <laugh>,
Ethan Garr 00:07:39 You know, um, I'm, I'm excited to talk to you about the pop-up events. You told me a little bit about those, but I saw, I think I saw on LinkedIn you were having like five or six of them just this weekend, so it's obviously become an interesting part of your business. So we'll dive into that. But maybe, um, I mean, you got into it a little bit, but maybe you can tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you, how you, how you came up with the idea and how you got into this and
Brendan Candon 00:08:00 Absolutely. Yeah. So for us, SidelineSwap came out of a, a personal pain point, a conversation that my co-founder, uh, Anthony Piaz and I had soon after I graduated from college. I had, uh, I had played lacrosse at Holy Cross, and while I was there, I was given equipment for free. We were division one program, and so kind of forgot how expensive some of this stuff was, went to play in men's league, and to buy a new set of equipment would've cost me about $500. So ended up buying it off of Anthony. And the two of us started this conversation about how, you know, it's kind of crazy. No one had made it easier for athletes to buy and sell their gear online. Obviously eBay and Craigslist were out there, but most people we knew weren't selling there. And that most families we knew had garages full of equipment.
Brendan Candon 00:08:46 I, you know, I'm one of five. Our house growing up is just filled with, with all types of sports equipment. And so we felt like, and, and I was also also a played again, sports customer. So played again is this, uh, franchise of used sporting good stores. It's been around since the eighties, but never really went online. And so I had shopped used growing up, I had continued to do the peer-to-peer transaction offline. And then we had this conversation and it quickly was a light bulb moment of, man, that's a really interesting idea. And so we shifted into looking at, um, what else is out there? And we kind of had some intuition around what was in the market in terms of play it again and eBay doing that research of, well, what type of products on eBay and who's selling on eBay today? And quickly building some conviction around, all right, there's a really interesting opportunity here and that, you know, we were looking at the verticalization of eBay that was happening around that time.
Brendan Candon 00:09:42 So this is like 2012, 2013 reverb, Poshmark StockX were all just coming into the scene. And it was pretty clear that you would have this fracturing of eBay around specific customer verticals and sporting goods as we dug in, was the fifth largest category on eBay. Um, played, again, it was a half a billion dollar business, which was mostly just a function of how many stores they had. So we felt like there was this huge opportunity there. We felt like we knew the customer problem. We didn't have the technical backgrounds, we hadn't, we hadn't spent time working in tech companies or marketplaces, but we felt like we really understood the customer. And so we kind of just went for it. Um, and so it was an interesting learning process, like getting the product off the ground and figuring out how to solve a lot of the marketplace challenges. But I think our, you know, from the beginning we just felt like we had a strong understanding of the customer and that helped us get started.
Ethan Garr 00:10:35 It's a difficult business to like do a, you know, on a small scale, right? I mean, like, like did you have to sort of kind of go all in or was there a bit of an mvp or did you try to play around on eBay to see what you could learn or,
Brendan Candon 00:10:49 Yeah, it, uh, I think that's right. So we, we always felt like the market was, was huge and that there was an, but because you're taking a 12% cut of the transaction, you have to get really big in order for the business to work. So what we did was we, we raised some friends and family money. We hired, uh, development shop and we got a first product off the ground, so we kind of had to build out, and there's some new tech out there now that helps marketplaces get started as more of like a tech as a, uh, out of a box. But we had to build a custom platform from day one. We were able to get it. Now I'd look at it as, as an MVP at the time, it was like, well, you know, we were, we're really excited about it. Nailed <laugh> <laugh>, um, which is a good hi lesson in hindsight that like, you know, you'd look back if you, if it had to be perfect at that point, right?
Brendan Candon 00:11:38 You launched too late. But, um, we, we were able to get what was an MVP off the ground, which allowed people to list product to communicate, um, back and forth and to buy and sell. Uh, basically they had to purchase through PayPal and they had to, to like create their own shipping labels. There was a ton of friction. But we got this MVP live in 2012 and what we saw, and we focused on one, um, niche within sports. So we focused on lacrosse cuz that was the category we knew the best and we had connections and we were able to seed the marketplace with inventory. So we, we launched the marketplace with basically like 20 of our friends who had just graduated college and had really cool college sports equipment. Marilyn Duke, Notre Dame. And so we got them to list first. And we did like all this growth hacking of taking that inventory, posting it into forums and Facebook groups and getting buyers to come over and then converting them.
Brendan Candon 00:12:28 But what we learned really quickly is that there was definitely an interest in this that, you know, people, we had gained momentum with users and, you know, 20 people listing 200 items quickly turned into thousands of people listing tens of thousands of items. And that was, that was enough momentum for us to keep going and to keep building from there. We eventually had to raise another round, kind of rebuild the marketplace based on some of those key initial learnings, specifically. Like the chat feature was super popular and it was like disconnected from transactions. So we had to rebuild it where we kind of pulled everything together, you chat within the transaction experience, buyer guarantees, payments and shipping were all kind of introduced. And then that's where things started to kind of really take off. But we definitely had to get, like, we felt like we had to launch enough of an MVP to really under validate the idea, which is like, can you get people to list, which is what wasn't happening previously. And I think that would've been hard to do if we were just selling through eBay or trying to connect people on like Instagram or something.
Sean Ellis 00:13:28 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and so you said that you started with lacrosse and, and did you, did you sort of build out one sport at a time or once you had lacrosse you could, you kind of plug every sport in there?
Brendan Candon 00:13:40 Um, so we started with lacrosse and we stayed with that for a little while. And then our growth strategy has really been to think about sports the way like Uber would think about cities, right? You need to build liquidity in each sport in order for it to work. There's other things like merchandising is really important. So if we're gonna launch successfully in skiing, the skiers expect a certain level of detail when they're shopping and, and that builds trust quickly. So we, we basically went like lacrosse and hockey than baseball and skiing and snowboarding and golf and we've kind of cont it's gotten easier with each additional category and now kinda
Sean Ellis 00:14:16 Have a place open around
Brendan Candon 00:14:17 Them. Yeah, exactly. And, and you have, um, we always made it a sports marketplace. It was never a lacrosse marketplace and there were other things, but we didn't expect, we didn't do any marketing to drive buyers to a category we weren't focused on, on the sell side. So that was kind of the, the growth strategy.
Sean Ellis 00:14:34 So when you, when you talked about marketplace challenges, obviously the, the one that often comes up is kind of like, uh, you know, it's either either really hard to get the buyers or really hard to get the, the inventory. Which, uh, which has been harder for you and, and how have you overcome, overcome that challenge?
Brendan Candon 00:14:52 Yeah, so the harder side for us was, was the sell supply side. And it does, um, ebb and flow a little bit at points. You know, we need a little bit more demand, but for the most part, the supply side has been where the challenge was and that was from day one. And so we've really spent most of our time and most of our energy on figuring out how do we get more inventory into the marketplace. What we see is that if we could get good used inventory into the marketplace, we can sell it through seo, through paid marketing, the economics work for us, but to, it's, it's less, uh, it, it's definitely harder to do that than it is, um, to get the or harder to get the supply side on, on the marketplace. And so, yeah, that's been been our big focus and I think it's cuz the, the, I guess like, no, we're not moving inventory from eBay to sideline, right? We're not taking market share. It's really getting people to do something they've never done before. And that was the hard
Sean Ellis 00:15:49 Part. So as I was gonna ask, do you, um, do, do most people like list the items in multiple places or do you have like, exclusivity on the items they're listing?
Brendan Candon 00:16:01 I think that behavior's evolved a little bit over time. Uh, we still see that about half of our sellers have never sold anywhere else before. So what we, our, um, conversion, um, journey usually is we get you as a buyer. So it's, there's a lot more people shopping for sporting goods than le looking to sell. So we get you to come into the marketplace shopping around and then, oh, people like me are selling here. I could sell too, and we convert you to a seller. Um, and then once they sell, a lot of that times that is exclusive, not exclusive, but it's unique to sideline. And I think that's where if you shop sideline, we have more unique inventory than anybody else in sports. Um, but uh, at, at you do have power sellers who sell on multiple platforms and so there's definitely a little bit of that, but the majority of our inventory is unique to sideline because of the way we run, you know, think about acquisition and how we convert buyers into
Sean Ellis 00:16:57 Sellers. And, and is that always shipped somewhere or is there any like kind of local marketplace to it?
Brendan Candon 00:17:03 There's no local pickup right now. Um, what we see is that you typically, the way our peak customer shop on sideline is they're looking for a very specific product. So if you're looking for CCM jet speed hockey skates at size 10 and a certain width, the likelihood that that's in your pickup range is low. And that's why we think Facebook marketplace and other local marketplaces are not solving this problem the way customers shop. And so we always thought eBay was actually a better experience than Craigslist in this category for a couple reasons. You really wanna be able to find the specific skew you're looking for and shipping's not that expensive. Like the average product ships for under 15 bucks and you're saving 70%, you know, up to 70%. So it makes sense to, to ship it.
Ethan Garr 00:17:54 I think when, uh, when we first chatted, I was telling you I had just been looking for a pair of used ski boots cuz I don't ski very often and I just needed them for kind of one particular, um, uh, day out basically. Um, and I had this, uh, you know, I was saying like I hadn't found SidelineSwap at the time, but I was saying that the concern was like, I don't really know what sh what, what what the right size is. It's kind of feels like the kind of thing you have to put on and try. But it seems like you've, you're, you said you'd be surprised people do actually buy size goods and, and like, is that, do you think just because you've built such a trusted marketplace as a whole that people are like, well, I can always take this and and resell it or, um, or, or, or is it more that people know what they're buying most of the time?
Brendan Candon 00:18:39 <laugh>? I think it's a little bit of both. I think you have ways that you could build trust in the marketplace that really do drive new behavior, right? And get you to feel confident in it. So good. Like, and it's, you know, Airbnb has a lot of lessons around this, right? Like how much energy they invest in good photographs of an apartment. In our case, you know, it was about good photos and, and a lot of photos, um, accurate descriptions. We also provide like sizing guidance on top of the description. So if you say as boot size 10, we could help you understand how that fits, right? So we provide layers of content on top of it that the seller might not. Uh, and then the chat is a huge feature, so you could talk to the person you're buying it from, Hey, I wear this size shoe, I tip my foots.
Brendan Candon 00:19:24 And they could act like the sales associate would in a store and a lot of times get, you know, they're, they've used the product, they bought it, so you're buying from someone who really knows it, and that helps you b uh, increase your confidence as well. And then we have the buyer guarantee, and you can sell it, you could always res like if you're buying it, someone else is probably buying it, so you could always sell it back into the marketplace as well. So I think all those things factor into it, but, um, the, and then you also get a lot of people who have, who have worn the product before, right? And that's where it's a great easy use case of, you know, I've, I've, I've used this product, it's now a little bit beat up, I need to get another one. I don't feel like spending as much for it and you can just go and find the replacement product. It's a great use case for that. But we also see, you know, a lot of people coming in and, and shopping for the first time.
Ethan Garr 00:20:11 Gotcha. Shawn, do you have another question before I jump into next one or, yeah, I had, I had one on the tip of my tongue, but
Brendan Candon 00:20:18 Lost it.
Ethan Garr 00:20:19 <laugh> <laugh>. No worries. Um, so one thing I was curious, uh, yeah, I've been working with a couple of marketplace businesses and I've, they're very aggressive when it comes to conversion rate optimization. I was curious, I I'm assuming that's pretty universal, um, uh, a across marketplace businesses, but is it, is that for you a big, a big area of focus? Is that a lot of where your experimentation energy goes?
Brendan Candon 00:20:41 Yeah, I, I think we spend a lot of time thinking about conversion. I think in terms of like testing and experimentation, I'd probably be be lying if I said we're, we're like ruthless about that. And I think what we've found, we've tried at times, and I think what we've found is that, um, there's areas of that we can be like test and, and much faster and like without spending a ton of resources. So marketing creative for example, like what, what marketing assets we use and what copy we use. We, we test that constantly. But, um, things in product with a small team, it's hard to invest the resources of changing, building multiple versions of everything and, and testing. So the o and the other thing with the marketplace that that's challenging is that we, we'd run these tests and the inventory's constantly changing, right? It's not like a SAS business or a Shopify business where you're driving, you know, a thousand eyeballs to the same product.
Brendan Candon 00:21:41 Nothing changes except the button color. In our case, we're driving you to a pair of hockey skates. That pair of hockey skate sells. Now we're sending you to a different pair of hockey skates that might be a different price, different pictures. And so it, there's a lot of variables that made it made it challenging with a marketplace because you don't control everything. So what we've, what we've done is focused more on, you know, uh, where, where we get our traffic from, where we get our inventory from, so testing around those things. So higher quality inventory, also like quality of traffic that we can, that we can, um, get through certain channels and the testing we could do in those channels. And then we've, within the product, it's more around certain user experiences. So within the checkout flow, within signup, those are areas where we try to test a little bit more or we're adding a new feature.
Brendan Candon 00:22:26 Um, and so I think that's been a learning about, you know, you, I think you have this aspiration to test everything because of, of the way people talk about this. And, and I think for a small team, you have to pick and choose of what you can test and, uh, not get caught up in debating the things like, well, the inventory changed and the test is now no longer valid. Um, and, and, and that way you can move fast and, and make smart decisions, but at the end of the day, zoom out and focus on the big things, which is get high quality inventory onto the marketplace, drive traffic from good channels, and that takes care of a lot of it. And then, uh, and then within that, there's a lot of ways to optimize.
Sean Ellis 00:23:05 Is it, uh, fully a, a web-based experience or do you have an app, uh, experience
Brendan Candon 00:23:10 As well? But we have both.
Sean Ellis 00:23:11 Yeah. And do you find that like on, on the app that, uh, that like user retention and, and some of the metrics are better if they're on the app?
Brendan Candon 00:23:20 Definitely. Yeah. So the, I mean, app users are our best users, but conversion is, there's a lot more friction to get them into the app. So what we'll typically do is drive you to the web first, get you there, get you to see the experience, and then really focus on converting you to an app user from there. Although it varies, like we've had a lot of success with TikTok install campaigns lately. Um, but we definitely see that, uh, the, the app users, whether it's causal or you know, just a, basically the people who want to, uh, use the app product all the time, download the app, you know, I think that's, that's something we're constantly debating, but no doubt the app users are by far our best users and most likely to buy and sell as well, which also drives up their, their lifetime value.
Sean Ellis 00:24:10 Yeah. And then another question I was gonna ask before was, um, and I'm sorry Ethan, I know you now, you No, no, go ahead. But, uh, the, you had talked about the, that chat really seemed to, uh, help the experience when you got that added, but I assume that there's a little bit of fear maybe misguided or maybe real, that, um, the more you enable communication between the buyer and the seller, the uh, the easier it is to go off platform for the transaction. How, how have you guys navigated around that?
Brendan Candon 00:24:38 Yeah, yeah. That, that definitely is the case. Um, we have a lot of things we do there to try to keep it on platform. Everything from soft reminders, like we provide a buyer guarantee, keep your chat on platform. Like that's where you get the value out of this. I think the other thing is that we reduce a lot of friction. So if you go off platform, you now need to like Venmo or PayPal, somebody, you also need to create shipping labels. So now the seller has to do a lot of work by going off platform because of, it's not just local pickup, it's not, Hey, I'll meet and I'll still pay. It's another benefit to the shipping is that it actually keeps you on platform. I think you're also really
Sean Ellis 00:25:18 Think about worried like, am I gonna ship it and not get paid or am I gonna pay and not get the stuff I shipped? Exactly,
Brendan Candon 00:25:22 Yeah. So we even op I think like disintermediate, we've been able to overcome disintermediation by like solving real problems for buyers and sellers. But you know, offline businesses, it's tough, right? Like they're, it's much harder
Sean Ellis 00:25:35 Like a 12% insurance policy that you're actually gonna have a smooth transaction
Brendan Candon 00:25:39 That Yeah, exactly. And I think a lot of people see that that's worth it.
Ethan Garr 00:25:42 I think you gotta scare one of the two parties into believing that it's dangerous, right? Like, uh, because I've, I know I've had that op, I've had that situation where, uh, someone offers to do something off platform and as long as I'm scared of it, like it's, it stops it there. Or, you know, as long as
Sean Ellis 00:25:58 Long as me last week with, uh, with neighbor.com, I, I was getting my daughter some parking at ucla and she, uh, she, she basically, the guy's like, uh, I decided I'm gonna charge a lot more for it. And, um, I
Brendan Candon 00:26:14 <laugh> we've
Sean Ellis 00:26:15 Agreed to a price and then, and then like it just started to feel scammy. And then I start like [email protected]
and I, I start seeing that there's a ton of 'em. And, and so like, maybe I could go direct and hit his price, but I already don't trust the guy. And, and so yeah, it's, uh, like I, I think there's always gonna be fear on a platform, but there's even more fear going off the platform <laugh>.
Brendan Candon 00:26:40 Totally. And, and I think if you can, yeah, so that, I mean, then that's your opportunity to build, reinforce trust on both sides, right? So, um, yeah, I think we've been able to do that pretty successfully. And, and I think, uh, yeah, it, it was something we, we thought a lot about in the beginning, but the more we improved the user experience, the less it became an issue.
Ethan Garr 00:27:03 So I wanted to ask you about the trade-in events, cuz I, they, they seem pretty fascinating to me. And it seems like for a digital business, it's, uh, anytime you do something offline, there's gotta be a lot of, uh, fear and, and uh, concerns. So I'm curious, maybe you can tell our audience a little bit about what those events are, why they're, why they've been successful for you, and where you think they'll take you in the future.
Brendan Candon 00:27:26 Yeah, absolutely. So the trading events really came from two things. One, it was our, like during Covid a lot of sports were canceled, especially our core sports. And so growth slowed down and we had to kind of like pump the brakes on on a lot of things. And it gave us an opportunity to reset and think about, okay, we've, we've really been, uh, addicted to a few growth channels specifically like Facebook, Instagram, and Google up for the past couple years as we were really chasing growth and what can we do going forward to grow the business without necessarily being so reliant on those performance marketing channels. And, uh, at the same time looking at where's the market headed? And we, and, and so we, we talked about fast moving water and there's this great great blog post on, on find the fast moving water. And for us, we looked at brands and retailers we're starting to really lean in on resale of talking about, uh, you know, bringing that into their own shopping experience after I think a long time of thinking that was something they, they didn't really have any interest in and cannibalize their market.
Brendan Candon 00:28:34 I think the retailers and, and brands have really come around on this is a good thing, customers want this and you could use it to drive incremental traffic and in incremental revenue. And so we started there and we said, all right, well if, if that's where the market's headed and we need, we, we want to get off performance marketing channels and we also need to get more supply, how do we put those things together, come up with a solution that solves all, like, solves our problems of getting more supply growing faster, but also taps into this need that these retailers and brands have. And so in our space, Dick Sporting Goods is by far the biggest retailer in the space. And so we, we had built some relationships with them, we approached them and said, what if customers could walk into your store and bring in their old baseball bat and get paid on the spot for the trade-in value in a Dick's gift card?
Brendan Candon 00:29:22 Is that something that you guys would be interested in doing? And there was, there was a lot of interest in that. And we had the technology by that point to be able to, we have our value guide and we could determine pricing based on, you know, the recent resale price and how fast things sell. We can buy things with a lot of confidence knowing how, you know, what, what price they'll sell at and how long they'll take to sell. So that was where our trade-in event started. We started, we ran one in 2021 and then, uh, it went well and it was awesome. Like we were sitting in a parking lot of a sporting good store and as soon as we're done setting up with our tent trade-in a big trade-in event tent, people start walking up with bags of equipment and, you know, very quickly we were like, this is what we thought was out there.
Brendan Candon 00:30:06 And there's a lot of friction in that's them. Listen, listen to the local thing too. Yeah, exactly. So you remove the friction around shipping a lot of people, like they, if you wanna sell yourself, we have a great platform for that. But if you don't wanna do the work and you still have the stuff, now we have a solution for that too. And so we, we did one event in 2021 last year. We did a 14 event test in the spring that went great and we, we scaled up to set 50 events in the fall. And we're gonna do probably about 700 events this year with our retail partners. And the experience for customers is, is you, you know, we're usually in your town for two to three weeks. You get an email from the retailer and from us saying, Hey, there's a trade-in event this weekend.
Brendan Candon 00:30:49 Bring in your used sporting goods, we'll pay you in a Dick's Sporting Goods gift card. When we work with Dick's, when we work with a few other, uh, retail partners as well, we, you bring up your stuff, we check you in, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to evaluate your equipment while we're doing that. You, you walk around the store so you could start, start shopping and then we send you your quote, here's what we can pay you for your stuff. And if you accept, you know, you accept it, you get paid in the gift card instantly, you could use it in that store visit. And then we get the inventory, we, while we're quoting it, we're actually listing it. So we have the product ready to be listed onto the marketplace and then it goes, goes into the marketplace from there and it resells quickly.
Brendan Candon 00:31:27 So it's been, it's been a win for, um, customers. I think, uh, both the retail customers and our customers who participate in the events, uh, and then it's been a win for retailers. They see almost a two x lift on, uh, the in-store spend. So if you spend an average, you know, if the average customer on an average weekend spends a hundred bucks once they attend a trade-in event, the average payout, depending on the retailer, it's usually between 70 and a hundred bucks. And almost all that ends up being incremental revenue. So instead of spending a hundred, you spend one 70 to 200 cuz it's free money to you. And, you know, that's, that's big dollars for the retail partners. At the end of the day, we reimburse them the trade, like we cover the trading costs so there's no hit on their margin. And then we, you know, we flip the product for good, good markup and it works for us and we get more inventory onto the marketplace. So it's been, it's been really interesting and, uh, something we're, we're excited about, but took a, you know, we had to build the marketplace first to be able to go do this, and then it allowed us to go launch this like second phase of the business, which we always hoped to get to, but kind of had to wait for the market to get there and get for ourselves to, to be able to support it. Do
Ethan Garr 00:32:38 You have to, to be pretty careful with what you take in, because obviously you don't also don't wanna warehouse too much stuff, right? So
Brendan Candon 00:32:45 Yeah, so we have a, a value guide and you basically, everything gets processed into a system. Mo you know, pr we have a price for most things, but there are things that we can accept whether for condition, age of the product. Um, and so our, our value guide's extremely comprehensive, but in certain cases we do reject product. Uh, and what happens in those cases is if it's in good enough condition, we always try to find a local donation partner. So you can, uh, donate it to, we will donate it on your behalf to a local sports program. And that's been a great, uh, additional benefit to it. Uh, and then, um, we, or we'll recycle it responsibly so we have a, a way to discard the items and you don't have to take it home with you in, in those cases. So, but we do, we do reject product. You don't get paid for everything and you know, that has allowed us to make sure that we're selling, you know, we don't really have products sitting around because we can be pretty selective about what we take.
Sean Ellis 00:33:41 Yeah, it's interesting. I, I, uh, speaking of the donation of, of, of sports equipment, I, I was going down to, uh, Nicaragua about maybe a year ago, and my friends down there said, oh, you know, the baseball team just doesn't have any equipment. They can't afford it. Can you ask some of your neighbors and see if you can bring some stuff down? And, and next thing you knew I was, was like overwhelmed with, uh, with like, so, so much youth sporting, you know, youth, uh, baseball stuff that, um, yeah, it was, it was, I mean, my additional baggage costs there was quite a bit <laugh>, but it was pretty awesome to hand it out to to to kids there. And I'm sure plenty of kids in in in the US appreciate those donations as well.
Brendan Candon 00:34:24 Yeah, exactly. Yeah, we've done stuff locally. I think there's some international programs we're working with, so do a little bit of all that and we also have an option where you can, we'll buy it from you, but we'll donate the proceeds on your behalf. So in a lot of cases, local programs, they, they don't need more baseball bats, they actually need jerseys, right? So, but we could turn a baseball bat into cash that you could use to buy a jersey. So we, uh, you know, we have this option where you could do it as a fundraiser, but we still sell it, we still pay you for it and we still resell it, but it's then you could use the money how you want to use it, rather than having to now make use of a bunch of hockey skates and hockey sticks that you got.
Sean Ellis 00:35:04 Oh, that's cool. Very cool. So, um, and you, you had mentioned Dick's Sporting Goods as being one of the retailers that you work with, and I did notice that you, uh, raised some money recently from their venture arms. So I'm, I'm curious, uh, was it, was it, was it this program that started that relationship or, or vice versa? <laugh>
Brendan Candon 00:35:24 Yeah, no, so this, I think the investment grew out of the business relationship, although they're both kind of in talks the whole time. It was, that was the idea. But, uh, yeah, I think it's, it's been been awesome to have Dicks as an investor, uh, and a partner. They're, they're obviously a huge platform in the sport, you know, in, in the sports world. Uh, and, and we couldn't, couldn't really think of a better person to better, better company to be running with it, uh, running this with, and I think there's like a couple reasons that they're, they're really into it. I think the first is that it's good for business, right? Like, it, it's not just goodwill. They're, they're seeing a, a real impact, uh, and now at a small scale. And I think over time, at a larger scale of us being able to drive incremental foot traffic and incremental revenue, and it's something that we were uniquely good at.
Brendan Candon 00:36:13 We were the experts in use sports, and so we were able to, to work with them on that. I think the, the other thing is that it's a great customer experience, right? So customers come in, they love it, and they can, they know more and more customers are thinking about secondhand. And so being able to offer that service, you know, I've spent a lot of times in, in stores over the last year and the amount of times that you hear like, oh, this is so cool that they're offering this now. Like, we, you know, we love this. So, uh, I think it's good for that. And then I think the third is that they're, they're a pretty forward thinking brand in, in terms of sustainability. And so, you know, obviously there's a, there's a sustainable, um, piece to this as well. And I think that that fits within what they're trying to do on a larger scale. So, uh, for a lot of reasons I think it made sense and, and it's been a, a great partnership so
Sean Ellis 00:36:58 Far. Yeah, it's, uh, you that, that kind of gift card dynamic that you talked about. Um, I had a, a similar, we, we actually had Vior on as a guest, um, maybe a, a year or two ago. And, uh, I had gotten some, some clothes for Christmas that were vior closed, and next thing you know, I'm, I'm, I'm returning a lot of 'em, but, uh, I, I have a credit of maybe like $150 and I'm walking outta there with $300 worth of clothes. And so, um, yeah, I, I could definitely see you start seeing stuff you like and it's that free money, and then you think, well, why choose between this or that? I'll just take 'em both and <laugh>, so Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I can, I can totally see how they benefit from, from that cycle.
Ethan Garr 00:37:41 Well, I think also the fact that it's so, um, it's such a realtime reward for Dick's, right? It has to make sense like the, the tra the trade-in event. Like, you know, if you are selling it as like, Hey, this'll bring customers in and it'll help you. It's different than saying, we're gonna send customers in with a gift card so they can buy more stuff. I mean, it just, um, and that's really the only, you know, the, that's the redemption value is right in there. So it seems like it, it, it totally, it, it seems like it totally makes sense and I, I could imagine a less forward thinking BA brand would have trouble with this idea of competing with their own sales, but I think you've created a pretty good, um, relationship where everybody wins essentially, right?
Brendan Candon 00:38:23 Yeah, I think that's right. And I think it still takes, you know, even with the data of showing that everybody wins, I think you still have two camps of like, well use business eats into the new business, but I think we, we have a lot of data and I think if you look at like even the used car market, you just have two different types of buyers and people who wanna, we know, like certain people who wanna buy new and like, they're just prob, you know, they're not gonna buy on sideline, they're not gonna buy used, but those are people actually who we want their stuff. Like they're great sellers because they're buying new all the time. And, and so, you know, we think that, you know, there's obviously multiple ways to view the world. You could, you know, view it as very zero sum or you could find synergies of where it may not appear. There are that many on the surface, and I think, you know, we've been able to do that here and, and, uh, yeah, and I think it's created a win-win win.
Sean Ellis 00:39:13 You know, this, this is a business that you've clearly been working on for a while, I think you said 2015, and you even had kind of dabbled in it, uh, a bit before. Yeah. Um, what, uh, yeah, I think a lot of times there's this perception that in a marketplace business that it's, it's really a struggle and then you figure it out and just explosive growth and everything could become super easy from there. Is there any truth to that? And if, if not, what is the truth? <laugh>?
Brendan Candon 00:39:42 Yeah. Uh, <laugh>, I, you know, that I, I can't say that was our experience and we've had really ex, you know, we've had great growth, uh, and you know, I think some of the lists we're on speak to that, but it's, um, you know, and also marketplaces are hard to build. I think that's part of the moat that, you know, marketplaces are inherently defensible because they're, they're challenging to build. It's, there's network effects and it, and there's a cold start problem, right? So you, you know, for us, uh, I think in the beginning, you know, I think every marketplace, whether they're absolute rocket ships or, you know, they, they maybe take a grow over a longer period of time. Uh, you still have to get over the, the chicken and the egg problem of getting buyers and sellers and continuing to build liquidity. And so for us, like that, that was the focus, uh, and, and continue to be the focus for a long time.
Brendan Candon 00:40:33 Um, and yeah, I think like we, we've, we feel, you know, we we're, we're, it's been an exciting ride in terms of the growth we've had, but, but, uh, it definitely, you know, it definitely takes time and, and, uh, persistence to, you know, push the rock uphill for a while and then it rolls downhill for a little bit and then you <laugh> you gotta push it back up. So it's, uh, but it, I think that's part of the fun. Like, it's, it's a challenging business. It's intellectually stimulating, you know, you have, uh, a lot of different, a lot of different pieces of it. Um, but yeah, we've been, we've been at it for a while and, and it's been, uh, it's, it's had a ton of different challenges, but it, it's been a fun learning experience along the way.
Ethan Garr 00:41:12 One of the things you mentioned earlier was that, um, at the very beginning you actually, you and your, your team, I guess also friends, uh, were able to seed the business, you seed the inventory yourselves. How important do you think that, like, that was, I just stuck, it just struck me that that's really interesting that you, cuz getting the inventory is, is with a chicken neg problem, seeding one side of it makes a lot of sense. How important do you think that was and do you think you could have done it without it?
Brendan Candon 00:41:38 Yeah, I think it was critical in the beginning, like we convincing, like people who were at the top of the sport to take the time to list inventory on the marketplace. Like if we didn't have connections, I think it would've been really hard, even if it was a great product like we needed. And that, that unique inventory then drew in a ton of people. We were able to post that into the Facebook groups where people were talking about, you know, lacrosse equipment and it's like, oh, this is so cool. They click over and it's like, oh, if the co best college players are selling their stuff here, then I should sell my stuff here too. And it also set the precedent with like, it's not cheap used stuff. It's really cool, high quality used stuff, so there's all these benefits to it. Um, and I think it was, it was critical.
Brendan Candon 00:42:22 I mean, you know, it's very much the, it was a polygram like do things that don't scale approach where, you know, we were really in the weeds both in terms of getting our friends to list stuff and doing things for them to make sure the inventory went out and we set good customer experiences. Uh, and then, um, yeah, and, and, and like continue to do versions of that for a long time. Like whether it was posting to other marketplaces, posting to Facebook groups, uh, to get people into the platform without having to spend a lot of money. We were able to reach million dollar, uh, GMV run rate with spending $0 on marketing. But through that type of growth hacking of, you know, finding high quality pockets of inventory and then finding where people were already, like where the eyeballs that would be interested in that type of stuff. And then the, then that facilitated the transactions, but it took, definitely took the connections to, to get it started.
Sean Ellis 00:43:16 What, what about these like new, uh, n i l deals? Is there any, any play in that for you?
Brendan Candon 00:43:23 Yeah, so, uh, the name, image and likeness stuff has been interesting. Um, we, we've done some stuff with college athletes previously we had focused on when you just graduated, so you were done and you were able to get rid of it. Now there's like transfer portal stuff, which is interesting. Uh, we still have to be careful about like who, when do you own the inventory? Some schools take it back, some don't. But, uh, yeah, n i l has opened up a lot of new opportunities, uh, specifically around like influencer deals and, and getting so, so it's, uh, yeah, it's, it's kind of a new, new area for acquisition that we really haven't been able to play in before that we're, we're testing a lot of things and it's, uh, it's what we found is that it's not necessarily the best players on the field who are the best partners on this. It's actually the content creators. Like if you're on a good team and a good content creator, doesn't really matter if you're last on the bench. Like you might have, you might be the better partner for us. You get the ben than the top player
Sean Ellis 00:44:24 A little bit more. Yeah. Yeah. My, my daughter's a D one athlete who just went through a transfer portal and it's just amazing. Like just how much, it's not so much sports gear, but just, you know, the, the sponsors of the programs and just how much they just shower 'em with. She showed me a, she sent a picture like a week ago of just a pile of, of Nike clothes, for example. I know it's not quite the equipment site of things, but, uh, it's,
Brendan Candon 00:44:49 Well, we sell, we sell a ton of apparel, so, and that type of stuff, like, you know, alumni will eat up, we have a whole fan shop section where you can shop any college, uh, and, and pro team, and so you have fans and players buying and selling from each other. So yeah, like we love excess inventory, so, uh, that's that's good to hear. Yeah,
Sean Ellis 00:45:08 I'm sure there's, there's kind of rules around what they can and can't do there, but it's, uh, it is just amazing. Like, just, just how much, how much stuff they shower on the students. You went from a, from a adida school to a Nike school and <laugh>, it's, and then obviously when you go in the transfer portal and you, you leave a program like you, you don't want to be wearing that program stuff around anymore. Exactly.
Brendan Candon 00:45:28 You have like no, no emotional, very little emotional connection to it at that point.
Sean Ellis 00:45:32 Right, right. So Ethan, you got any more questions before we wrap up here?
Ethan Garr 00:45:36 Yeah, just real quick, um, I'm curious, you know, it sounds like it's been a great run and it, and it continues to be exciting and interesting if you continue on this road to success, uh, three years, two, three years from now, you look back and you're like, we just killed it. This is awesome. What does that look like for you?
Brendan Candon 00:45:53 Yeah, I think the goal for us is always to, like North Star vision is be the largest sports marketplace out there, right? Be a household name in sports where everyone thinks of to sell their stuff and to buy their stuff. And we think that's a much version, much bigger version of the business than we have today where we have, you know, tens of millions of, of athletes, sports families and fans buying and selling, you know, probably billions of dollars worth of equipment, apparel, footwear, but with each other. And so, you know, I think, we'll, it will look similar in some ways and just a lot larger of more awareness and peop you know, a bigger community of people buying and selling. Um, you know, and the product will continue to evolve and there's all the stuff we want to add, uh, local pickup on the list as well.
Brendan Candon 00:46:35 But, um, you know, I think, so it's, it's continued growth of the core business and then really the evolution of this trade-in element where our goal is to really power the circular economy in sports. We want to enable resale wherever athletes shop or play. So not just at, uh, uh, sporting good store, but also at your local hockey rink, at baseball training facility. You know, you'll see SidelineSwap trade-in opportunities, whether it's a pop-up event or you know, a more of a technology solution where it's an always on, um, you know, trade-in kiosk where you could walk up and, and trade in your equipment. So I think those are the things that we're, we're excited about. And I think the, we have the, a great tailwind right now with the secondhand market. You know, eCommerce is very much in vogue. Um, and I think that's because customers, you know, think it makes sense from both, from a pricing standpoint of not having to spend so much, especially in, uh, more challenging economic, economic times and then selling your stuff. Uh, but also there's the sustainability element that I think everybody buys into. So, you know, it's, uh, it's been fun to see that momentum building. It wasn't quite, you know, I think in the beginning we had to convince a lot of people that people would buy and sell, use sporting goods online. I think it's becoming more and more obvious. And so, yeah, I think like it's, it's riding that momentum and making sure we're putting SidelineSwap in position to take advantage of all these opportunities as they open up.
Sean Ellis 00:47:56 Yeah. How do you, how do you actually promote the, uh, the in-person events? The, like at, at a retailer?
Brendan Candon 00:48:05 So, uh, if you're on an a retailer's email list, you'd hear about it. Okay. Um, so that they do some promotions for us. Awesome. Yeah. We do in-store, they'll do in-store promotion as well leading up to the event. Then we do, uh, everything from paid advertising on social media, you know, in micro markets to hitting our own list and app notifications to testing things like you might get a postcard in the mail if you're, you're around that store, uh, telling you to, to come into the event. And that's actually been pretty successful too. So it's, uh, we're, we're definitely trying everything in terms of finding out about it, but if you're a SidelineSwap user and you're in that zip code that you know, or, uh, a retail customer in that of that store. That's, that's generally where you'd hear about it.
Sean Ellis 00:48:47 I could, I could see someone on your site clicking something that says, what if I don't want to deal with shipping and, uh, getting added to a li, you know, oh, we do have local events where you can just drop it off and we'll sell it for you like that.
Brendan Candon 00:49:01 Yeah. If you go to our cell page, you'll, you'll see like, here's your cell phone, a little link underneath it says, find a trade in event. So you can, uh, totally. We're try, but, but it's like, we don't have a hundred percent coverage yet. Right. We're in five cities this weekend. We're in 10 next weekend. But, uh, but yeah, I mean, more like
Sean Ellis 00:49:17 Five.
Brendan Candon 00:49:18 That's
Sean Ellis 00:49:18 The idea. Yeah.
Brendan Candon 00:49:19 <laugh>. Yep. That's the cool.
Sean Ellis 00:49:21 So a question that we love to end every, uh, interview with is, uh, asking you, uh, really like what do you feel like you understand about growth now that you may not under, may not have understood a couple years ago? Or in your case, even just when you were getting started with the business, is there, is there some big growth learning that you, that you feel like you've developed in the last few years?
Brendan Candon 00:49:43 Yeah, I think the, it's, the, the big learning for us has really been about the being willing to take some of these bigger shots, right? Like, first understanding like where, what are you uniquely good at in the market? And then who can you work with who has a lot more scale in order to provide a service or value add to them or to their customers and, you know, benefit, you know, find that win-win that we found, that we found here in, in our trade-in program. You know, I think, I don't know how, how easy it is to replicate across markets, but for us, you know, obviously there's the constant optimization, uh, you know, on within the product and within our marketing channels. But I think what we've, when we look back at what really drove step, step function growth in the business, it was some of the stuff that we kind of knew had to happen, whether it was like a new inventory integration to get more inventory into the marketplace or something like trade in to drastically reduce friction and, and be able to go get inventory from customers where they, where they are.
Brendan Candon 00:50:44 Um, you know, I, I think it's, it's a little bit counterintuitive to some of the more iterative growth strategies that you see, but sometimes like that you, you kind of know it intuitively that that's where you need to get to and you gotta find a way to, to do it, you know, with the resources that you have and not like make an all-in bet on this one thing, but also be willing to make bigger bets and hopefully unlock step function growth along the way. So I think it's, uh, that's been an interesting learning and, and something, um, you know, we're, we've obviously benefited from lately.
Ethan Garr 00:51:18 Well, Brennan, this is absolutely been, been fantastic. It's really, um, it's really an interesting business and, uh, I think the way you've approached it, um, I think will give our audience a lot of, um, interesting things to think about. Especially, you know, for me, a couple of the, the big takeaways were, again, like, I think the, the, the way you started this, uh, seeding the market using what you were really good at and knew starting with lacrosse because it's what you knew best, I think, um, made a lot of sense. And it, it seems to have gotten you over probably a lot of that, that really, those, some of those early hurdles with an M V MVP and trying to, you know, get over what is gonna naturally not be, uh, as, as ti tightened up as you probably would like. And, um, just what you said here about, uh, looking for win-wins.
Ethan Garr 00:52:03 Um, you know, we've seen a lot of, um, companies that we've had the opportunity to, to chat with where what seems to really drive their business is that they're sort of, they're in their goals are very much in line with their customers. Their growth depends on their customer's growth. And it seems like you think about that not only with your customers buying and selling products, but also with your partners. So, um, it's really good stuff and I, I really appreciate you coming on and spending some time with us here. Sean, do you have any other key takeaways?
Sean Ellis 00:52:31 No, I think you nailed them. That's, that's awesome. Yeah. Thank you, Brendan. We appreciate having you on.
Brendan Candon 00:52:35 Thanks for having me, Sean and Ethan. It was great. Great talking with you guys. Absolutely.
Sean Ellis 00:52:39 All right. And for everyone tuning in, thanks for listening.
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