Part 12 in a series where Krates Ng (co-founder of Mokugift the ecard service) interviews fellow ecopreneurs. Today, Krates interviews Eric Bae, founder of Freally. Freally is an online recycling and exchange website that helps its users to give away and receive free things.
1) Why did you start your company?
There were a few motivations behind starting Freally.
Firstly, I realised how much “junk” I have amassed over the years and wanted to find easy way to get rid of them. I found a similar services like Freally, but they were extremely outdated in terms of technology they were using (e.g. Forum based, no maps) and also lacked key features when exchanging items (e.g. what happens if user doesn’t pick up?). I wanted to address all these issues and make Freally the go-to place for “web-based recycling” solution.
Secondly, in my community, we have bi-yearly “throw-away-your-junk” day where people put all their junk items in front of their houses. When I walked past them, I was concerned how much trash is being dumped on as landfill and also thought many of these items could be easily and cleverly recycled through an easy-to-use website.
So I developed Freally to resolve the currently existing problems in online recycling, but on a broader scale, to really reduce the amount of trash being thrown away.
2) Is there a story behind the name of your company?
I wanted to emphasize to people that there is an easy way to receive “free items”. So the catch line I thought of was “It’s FREE, Really!” and hence the name “Freally” was born.
3) What was the toughest challenge in getting your company through the most recent growth stage and how you got overcame the challenge?
As with many other start-up projects, the toughest challenge was generating the initial momentum for growth in user base as well as the number of items being posted on the site.
In order to achieve this, we marketed Freally in various places. We contacted and built relationships with many environmentally concerned bloggers around the world, we also interacted with our users closely through surveys, questionnaires, blogs and social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter).
We implemented a number of sharing abilities on Freally website so that people can email particular items to their friends, or invite their friends to Freally.
We also started aggregating news articles and videos regarding environment through Freally, so that our users not only come to post and receive items, but they actually become educated in green-style living.
In summary, the way to overcome this growth problem was not solved by single momentary act, but through a consistent (and also persistent) task of finding different avenues of growth.
4) Can you describe the moment when you knew that your company hit full stride as a business?
When Freally was about 7 months young, we started to receive a number of media exposures from large websites (e.g. Gizmodo, Lifehacker, KillerStartups.com). Many of these sites, we did not contact, but by word of mouth and discovery, we were covered favourably by these sites. So again, through our constant action of finding multiple avenues for marketing Freally, we knew that we have achieved the solid user base. Also, we realised that Freally was being used in other countries quite extensively (e.g. Brazil) and that was a point for us to think that the message of Freally is finally being spread around the world.
5) If you had to pick one product in your lineup, which one would you showcase and why?
I guess if we had to select a feature of Freally that is outstanding, is its management of item exchanges. With other services, we realised that it wasn’t easy to handle odd scenarios that arises when posting and receiving items.
For example, Freally makes it extremely easy to “re-offer” an item to another user, if the person who previously agreed to pick up the item doesn’t turn up for some reason. In addition to this, we have implemented a friendly way for users to exchange messages to one another if they want to re-arrange their pick-up times or places. This subtle cases are often neglected but they occur quite frequently during the transaction of items.
6) How is your company going to grow in 2011? And how can other ecopreneurs help?
We are going to continually improve our services by implementing features and simplifying the current processes. In particular, we are in the middle of finding and interacting with some corporate sponsors who believe Freally will have positive impact on environment. We are building relationships with local environmental groups and asking for their feedback. In addition, we will continually adopt and upgrade to newer technologies so that Freally appeals to all levels of generations.
The primary way that other ecopreneurs can help is to actually use Freally and provide feedback on how we can further reduce the amount of landfill. As like-minded people, we would love to hear of any new features we can implement, or better yet, to partner with their own solutions so we can grow together.
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