When pre-loved toys join the sharing economy
Welcome to Appytoy: A marketplace for once-loved children’s toys
Appytoy founders, from left: Cathal Murphy, Evgeny Kazaev and Ekaterina Kislova
Every home with children has one – a box or a cupboard or an attic filled with toys the kids have outgrown. The toys are often still in good condition and social entrepreneur Ekaterina Kislova has come up with a way of prolonging their lives. It is called Appytoy and she describes it as “a marketplace for pre-loved children’s toys”.
Like many good business ideas, Appytoy was developed because Kislova identified an opportunity based on personal experience. “I’m the proud step-mum of a 6-year-old boy and our house is full of toys,” she says.
“We live in an apartment block with many other young families. Once, on my way home, I thought how great it would be if we could make all the toys in our apartments visible to each other. This way the kids could give away the ones they don’t play with anymore and get other ones. About the same time I discovered the sharing economy and realised that a sharing economy marketplace would be an ideal solution for the problem I had identified.”
At the time Kislova was studying for an MSc in Business & Entrepreneurship at DIT, where she took part in an app development and innovation module aimed at making students aware of what makes a successful app.
There was a competition at the end of the module which Kislova won with an early version of what has since become Appytoy.
Positive feedback encouraged her to transform her idea from an academic project into a business and she turned to her friends Cathal Murphy and Evgeny Kazaev for help. Murphy is responsible for the visual and UX aspects of the app while Kazaev looked after the software development.
Appytoy is the ultimate bootstrapped start-up making ends meet on the €15,000 it received for participation in the New Frontiers programme at DIT Hothouse. Expenditure was kept to the bare minimum as the founders had all the technical and marketing skills they needed between them. (Kislova had previous experience of a start-up in her native Russia.) However, funding is now needed to move Appytoy forward and the company is looking to raise €500,000.
Appytoy is free to use and those with something to give away earn points for their donation. Points can then be exchanged for a listed game or toy. Those who want “in” but don’t have anything to trade can buy points. The service is aimed at 0-9 year olds.
The Appytoy website is already up and running and the app will be launched shortly.
“Not only does Appytoy save pockets and clear space, it also teaches children to re-use and recycle and gives them an opportunity to meet new people and strengthen local communities,” Kislova says.
As the app’s target audience are active on social media it is being promoted primarily through Facebook, Twitter and the company’s website and blog. The company plans to expand into the UK in mid-2018 and into the EU in 2019. Ultimately it will make its money from premium content and from developing business subscriptions to the app. Likely business customers would include toy outlets with surplus stock and créches.
“The combined EU and US toy industries are valued at over €55 billion. The secondhand toy industry is valued at less than €.5 billion. Less than 1 per cent of (used) toys go back to the market. This is completely unsustainable for the future and key to what we wanted to address,” Kislova says.
“Some 95 per cent of the parents interviewed by Appytoy recognised the problem of toys cluttering their houses, but the majority of them are doing nothing about it. This is mostly due to the lack of an effective solution to the problem.” Asked who the company’s biggest competitors are Kislova says “the attic and the bin”.