It was a trip to a charity shop that first sparked the idea for what has become Thriftify, an online shopping platform based around connecting charities with like-minded buyers.
“I found a book I needed in a charity shop for €1 and it was €60 on Amazon. That developed into the ideology for ‘thriftify’ – the act of purchasing ethically and sustainably,” explains company co-founder Rónán Ó Dálaigh.
What struck Ó Dálaigh and his co-founders, Rahil Nazir and Timur Negru, was that few charity shops have an online presence, and more often than not they significantly undervalue the huge volume of CDs, DVDs, books, games and other items donated every year. The buying public also has no way of knowing what the charity shops have on offer unless they physically go to a store and root around.
To address these shortcomings the trio have developed a fully integrated B2B digital commerce platform that enables charity retailers to put their inventory online at the click of a button. “Their items are instantly in front of millions of online shoppers and our platform enables consumers to browse hundreds of thousands of ‘gems’ in hundreds of charity shops from the comfort of their mobile phones and computers,” Ó Dálaigh says.
“Thriftify also enables charity shops and other ethical retailers to get an instant valuation for their donations, and we provide a full suite of e-commerce tools to get the quickest sale for the best possible price,” he adds. “These include providing targeted Google ads, automatic price-matching with competitors, cross-listing on multiple e-commerce channels, automatic logistics and operations integration. On the B2C side we’re building the go-to place for the general public who want sustainable, ethical, pre-loved goods at the cheapest prices. We see particular opportunities in the area of sustainable fashion.”
Ó Dálaigh studied Irish and business at DCU and was the driving force behind two previous start-ups – a social enterprise incubator and a social enterprise-based events company. Nazir studied computer science and has a background in software and digital transformation projects for large corporates. Negru studied business and law, followed by a master’s in digital innovation, and previously worked for Microsoft and Clavis Insight, where his focus was ecommerce analytics.
“We want to disrupt how and why people shop. Faced with ecological crises, we need to give people the option of purchasing from the most sustainable sources. We also need to shift our value system from a materialistic basis to one driven by positive social impact,” Ó Dálaigh says. “We want to help charity shops move from a €2 billion bricks and mortar-based industry to a €20 billion digital commerce-based industry.”
The Thriftify platform is designed to travel and can be tweaked to suit different geographies. The company will make its money by taking a small commission, yet to be finalised, on each sale. The platform is free for shops and the public to use. Shops download the Thriftify app and use it to snap/scan the items it wants to put online. Thriftify manages the process end-to-end including the delivery. It has cost roughly €150,000 to develop the platform between sweat equity, directors' loans and €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland HPSU funding.
The platform is already being used by the Irish Cancer Society, the Dublin Simon Community and the National Council for the Blind. Ó Dálaigh says average online sales prices are up to 10 times higher than in store. The company is about to launch a funding round to raise €750,000, with a view to moving into the UK market.
“Our biggest inspiration as a team is our vision that the world needs to change,” says Ó Dálaigh. “Products need to become sustainable and ethical. Too often good prices and quality come at a cost. We want to transform purchasing so that every item you buy has a positive effect on people, planet and communities.”