Jun 22 2004

You Drop It Off. We Sell It On eBay

Every now and then, a VC runs across an entrepreneur that has enormous vision, the mental agility to tune his idea to the market reality, and the chutzpah to pull it off. Randy Adams from AuctionDrop is one such guy.

I met Randy for the first time when he came in one Monday to our partners meeting to pitch us on the idea for AuctionDrop. At the time he had a average looking powerpoint presentation that pitched a big idea – a national chain of drop off centers for eBay. The premise was that it’s a pain in the ass for the average Joe to sell something on eBay, that people would pay to have someone else do all the work for them, and that eBay would embrace this as one of their continued growth constraints is “supply of goods”.

We bit on the premise and my partner Heidi Roizen led a seed investment. Heidi had known Randy for a long time and had worked with him several times in the past. “If anyone can figure out how to pull this off, it’ll be Randy,” said Heidi.

That was over a year ago. After a few months, AuctionDrop had several company-owned stores up and running in the bay area and was doing a meaningful number of auctions each week. Within a year of being founded, AuctionDrop had five stores and had run over 14,000 auctions. AuctionDrop had focused obsessively on pleasing its customers – which is one of the keys to success on eBay – and had a superb rating. This has enabled it to be the first (and currently only) eBay Drop Off Center to receive Titanium PowerSeller status.

This wasn’t nearly enough for Randy. We all agreed that this was working and wanted to go national. Randy wanted to go national. eBay wanted us to go national. We wanted to swing for the fence with this investment and go national. Randy had two approaches – build out a national footprint ourselves or create a franchise model. For a variety of reasons, neither of these were compelling – building a national footprint was incredibly expensive (“That’s a scary as shit amount of money required,” said one of my partners) and would take too much time; a franchise model seemed marginal from a financial perspective and lacking from a quality control perspective (which we continue to believe is key to success on eBay).

About four months ago, I got an email from Heidi saying “Randy is talking to UPS about doing a deal where all UPS stores will be AuctionDrop enabled. We’d be national overnight and it’d be a huge deal for UPS since they want to continue to expand services through the stores.” This is the essence of the kind of thinking a VC wants. Goal = be national. Overcome all barriers – figure it out – then do it.

A month later Randy had a signed deal with UPS. Today the deal was announced (although it was covered in depth last week after the WSJ broke the story on it – an article even showed up in The Denver Post, one of my local papers.).

AuctionDrop is now live with UPS. If you’ve never sold anything on eBay, grab last years digital camera (you know – the one you replaced with this years model), find the nearest UPS store, and give it a try.