Wallapop has become the mobile app for buying and selling second-hand products par excellence. Some years ago, the revolution was led by eBay, which moved classified ads online; as did Segunda Mano in Spain. Now, however, for end-users they are no longer the preferred option. And that is largely due to the penetration of mobile in our lives.
However, Wallapop is not only a start-up that, in a matter of two years, has gobbled up a large part of the market. The company also has an entire business culture and model that is all its own, a formula about which its co-founder and CEO, Agus Gómez, reveals some details. So, what is the first secret of its success? "We took the risk of breaking the barriers to selling on the web by creating an app exclusively for mobiles," he says.
Thinking about people, not employees
"Small spontaneous rituals can be a good start," says Gómez about the process of increasing the workforce. It is a phrase that perfectly summarises the system, as he does not look at CVs, skills and work experience, but prefers to do interviews in a bar, talking one-to-one with staff, and not about professional matters. "When I need to interview someone, I invite them for a drink to talk more about them," he says, adding that this system has become "a kind of model we have applied to empathise with the employees."
The Wallapop team is the soul of the business. If people work well, the company will work; and the management knows it. So, having a drink to get to know potential future employees has now become a case of getting out of the office for a beer: "If you do not sit down with your colleagues in a bar for a drink, you do not connect with them. You need to connect on a personal level, to learn about their skills and about them as people so as to know what they can offer you."
But there is a trap to all of this, or at least at the beginning, according to Gómez. If the candidate manages to overcome the discomfort of having a drink with their 'future boss', it means they are sufficiently brave to become part of the team. "We cannot face the upcoming challenges without a good team," he adds.
This leads him to reflect on the role of the management, often seen as a distant element within companies. "It is seen as something to be afraid of," points out the CEO, who tries to dispel this bad image by insisting that it is what allows "the maintenance of a solid work culture."
On the streets of new cities
It all started in Barcelona, but has become established all over Spain. Antai Venture Builder –a European leader in driving forward online and mobile projects- took notice and helped the Catalan company to grow and spread its business model abroad in France and the United Kingdom.
The latest points on the map are Mexico and the United States. The latter is especially important because they face large competitors like Amazon, which leads the co-founder to label the challenge as "a little scary". They are planning to follow the same procedure as they did in Barcelona: "We went out on to the streets to learn about the needs of retailers and buyers, and to configure the app by basing it on that."
While he admits that their business disrupts the concept of classified ads, Gómez makes it clear that they have no "great innovations like drones": "Finding major investment is not difficult if you have an attractive idea or project. This, and putting the project on the map to sell your potential, is the great secret". Wallapop became known when it took over second-hand trading in Barcelona and Catalonia, which allowed them to expand to the rest of Spain and other European countries.
Gómez takes advantage of this brief overview to put on the table a euphemism: failure. In the same way that an entrepreneur risks investing money in an idea that might seem crazy, he also has to be patient and give himself a month to see if he is capable of making back all of the funds –in the form of investment- that he put into the idea. "I think that dying quickly if it does not work is the key to developing other initiatives in a good direction," he advises and he is critical of those projects that go on for a number of years without becoming profitable.
Monetising with a premium service
"Making money is a very ugly phrase," says Gómez in answer to the big question of what is behind Wallapop being free. What he is very clear about is that to get into the game, they have to operate in the same way as their major competitors, eBay and Amazon, which means they cannot abandon the freemium model: "It is important to go on to the market with a free service and, once you are established, you can begin developing other services and charge for them. The key isn't offering something for free, but rather added value."
However, this May, according to some specialised media outlets, the company has implemented a premium system through which users can improve the visibility of their ads for 1.99 euros. It is a service that the CEO says will not affect the users who opt only for the basic services.
Also, he says that the team is in "permanent contact with the client". "Every day we have users who visit the offices and leave comments, complaints and perceptions," he says about a practice that has been used since the beginning. "Before we did it instinctively, to see how we were doing, but now we do it because we see that it helps." This reflection leads him to criticise companies who prefer to keep their silence and he advocates transparency as a system that builds credit with end-users and that helps to generally improve the service on a daily basis.
Having a good time buying and selling
Wallapop is not only an app for getting rid of those things we do not use or to find products we need at a good price, it is also an app to have a good time. "Many people try it the first time to see how it is useful to other people. You take a photo, you write a description and you post it to the app in a few seconds, and then look to see what others have posted because you are curious," says the CEO, who intends to keep working along these lines: "My ambition for 2016 is to continue creating millions of stories of cooperation between people... while I also have a good time."
Apart from the agility, Gómez points to the local factor, to the immediacy of chat and direct sales between users as part of the added value that Wallapop offers compared with other platforms.