Interview with Ben Edwards of Swappa

Thu, 02/17/2022

As part of its work highlighting innovators in the dynamic tech sector across the Midwest, the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center is reaching out to regional tech leaders to ask them a few questions about their work, how they got started, and where they see their organization headed in the future. Today we are featuring an interview with Ben Edwards, Founder & CEO of Kansas City-based Swappa, an online marketplace where users can safely buy and sell used tech; including phones, laptops, cameras, and more. Since its founding in 2010, Swappa has grown from a side project to an online marketplace facilitating millions of dollars a month in commerce.


Tell us a little about Swappa and the work that you do.

Swappa is the safest marketplace for buying and selling used tech. When I started the company, our first sale was a Motorola Droid, and today we’ve expanded our marketplace to include iPhone and Android smartphones, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, gaming systems, cameras and smart home tech. Since the beginning, our mission has been to help our users buy and sell used tech safely and simply. From that first sale, we’ve grown the company to where it is today with millions of buyers and sellers and seller proceeds that exceeded $100M in 2021.

We recently launched Swappa Local with Roadie, a UPS company, to provide same- or next-day delivery in 43 metros across the country to help users get their gently-used tech even faster. Swappa Local is the safest way to buy gently-used tech locally and have it delivered straight to your door without meeting up with strangers. We continue to add new metro areas and will soon be launching Swappa Local in Omaha.


What led you to found Swappa?

I started Swappa as a side project in 2010 after a long career as a software and mobile developer. I frequently had trouble finding a good source for test devices for Android development projects. When I turned to eBay and Craigslist, I encountered blocklisted phones, junk devices and downright fraud. One night after buying a used phone, I saw the seller at a stoplight nervously look over and then race off into the night. That’s when I realized I wanted to build a better marketplace for buying and selling quality mobile devices safely. Since that time, Swappa has grown to be the ultimate used tech marketplace with millions of dollars per month in commerce.


What early barriers did you face?

One early challenge we faced was the fact that Swappa was a bootstrapped company with limited resources trying to draw people from eBay and Craigslist. With our focus on safety, smartphones, and low fees, we were able to establish a niche among used tech marketplaces.


What is the business climate like for tech companies in the Midwest?

We are fortunate that the Kansas City area and our region has a really supportive startup climate. Swappa is a remote and distributed company, and our first hires were from all over the country. By embracing a remote workplace, there weren’t any hiring limitations based on geography.


What advantages or challenges does the Midwest pose for a tech firm?

I’ve found that the Midwest startup scene seems to have more of a cooperative spirit rather than a competitive spirit, which is a really nice advantage. Another plus is the lower cost of living in the Midwest. Since we are a remote company, we are also able to branch out beyond the Midwest and find talented team members throughout the country. I believe the Midwest values of hard work and determination that everyone hears about are certainly true in our part of the country. We feel fortunate to continue to grow our company here.


Where do you see Swappa heading over the next five to ten years?

We plan on continuing the mission we started more than 10 years ago to help our users buy and sell used tech safely and simply. We are always evaluating new technologies, and we are excited about blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies and how they can be applied safely to modern marketplaces.




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