eRecycling Corps Finds Niche as Broker of Used Cellphones

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expand internationally beyond Europe. Investors in the Series C round included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Silver Lake.

There are other companies in the e-waste recycling business, namely, Gazelle, which also buys smartphones and other devices for resale.  The Boston-based company made almost $58 million in revenue last year but dropped its program with major retailers, opting to work with consumers directly. In July, Bellevue, WA-based Coinstar agreed to pay $350 million to acquire EcoATM, a San Diego startup that operates automated kiosks for recycling electronic mobile devices.

Edmondson is familiar with recycling in a particularly personal way. He went into an unplanned retirement in France in 2006, after resigning as CEO of Fort Worth-based RadioShack following media reports that he claimed on his corporate biography to have college degrees listed that he had not earned.

(His current bio on eRecycling Corps’ Website states he has a theology degree from Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College and that he completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University’s business school in 2002. Caran Smith, a company spokeswoman, says the education credentials on this bio are accurate.)

But after a year in France, Edmondson says he wanted to get back to work. He started Easysale, an online consignment company, in 2007. “We’re basically the warehouse version of an eBay store,” Edmondson says. “We sold anything from grandma’s couch to Oswald’s letter from Minsk, Russia, to Senator [John] Tower of Texas.”

Easysale’s only criteria was that each item had to have a minimum value of $50. So, when a box came in containing cell phones, Edmondson says he almost scolded the employees for accepting them. “I was out on the dock,” he says. “I used to like to go out there at the end of the day and see what things came in. It was interesting to me to see what people had to sell.”

Edmondson says he knew the phones originally sold for $29 but his employees told him that those same phones went for three times that on eBay. “So I looked, and, sure enough, the devices sold for an average of $80 a piece,” he adds.

As he realized the residual value of second-hand cell phones—and the market opportunity in being the company to bring them to those customers—Edmondson says: “My next question was: How do we get a bunch more used cell phones?”

In February 2009, he and Ron LeMay, the former president and COO of Sprint and someone he had gotten to know in North Texas’ business scene, launched eRecycling Corps. Sprint became the company’s first customer with a pilot in 100 Sprint stores in southern California by June. That program was expanded to all company-owned stores and dealers by February 2010. Two years later, eRecycling Corps had agreements with wireless carriers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Today, the company employs about 65 people in its Irving headquarters and has a distribution facility in Bloomington, IN. Its European office is based in Brussels, with several smaller sales offices in the U.S. and Europe. Edmonson says the company is profitable and he doesn’t expect to need to acquire additional venture capital.

He says that eRecycling Corps is a “eco-capitalist” company, saying, “we ought to use the idea of capitalism to solve the ecological problem.”

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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