Sami Marttinen was keen to work even at the age of 13. He boasts that he was one of the fastest strawberry pickers while working a summer job in his early teens in his home country Finland.

“When I was underage, I asked my mom if I could get a job because in Finland you have to be 15 to officially get a summer job,” he says.

This appetite to work in Marttinen is still visible today as his company, Swappie, recently raised €35.8 million in a recent Series B funding round which is being used for growth into countries, including Ireland, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands this summer. The company had just launched in Ireland and is rolling out an aggressive advertising campaign.

“People are suspicious paying high amounts of money online, especially when it comes to any new company.”

Sami Marttinen

Swappie is an online store used to buy and sell refurbished smartphones. The idea was created in 2016 when Marttinen went to a friend of a friend to get a used phone, which never arrived. He and Swappie’s co-founder Jiri Heinonen decided to literally go to the streets and ask people around Finland their thoughts on getting refurbished phones and their experience around sourcing them.

Sami Martinnen and Jiri Heinonen, Swappie’s co-founder and CMO

“We noticed that it’s not just a problem of C2C (customer to customer), but actually most of the population would be ready to buy refurbished phones if they just knew that the quality was consistent and if you actually got the same service as purchasing a new device,” says Martinnen.

The main concern amongst customers is that used phones have weaker battery life or that the device itself is of poorer quality than a new one, he explains.

“The deeper we got into the market, the more we realised that you actually have to build a model where you can control quality. Since there wasn’t enough consistent standards in the market, we thought this is the business model to go with so that we would build Swappy around the business model of buying, refurbishing and selling phones instead of just building a pure marketplace,” says Martinnen.

“We noticed that in order really to truly break through the market and change consumer behaviour towards a greener, more sustainable direction, you would need to build actual processes and refurbishment operations that could ensure that the quality is like purchasing new devices,” he adds.

“There’s definitely also a gap when it comes to services or businesses actually selling phones that function like new.”

Sami Martinnen

There are currently more phones than people in the world today and research shows that less than one per cent of smartphones are recycled properly.

On average, 85 to 90 per cent of a smartphone’s environmental impact comes during the manufacturing process, where carbon emissions are released. More than 56kg of CO2 is emitted in the creation of a single iPhone 11, according to data from Apple.

“We noticed that people in Ireland are more and more ready to consider sustainable choices. And that’s one of the drivers. There’s definitely also a gap when it comes to services or businesses actually selling phones that function like new,” says Marttinen on why he wanted his business to expand into Ireland.

Marttinen always wanted his business to grow outside of Finland, especially as it is a small country. Although it is branching further out into Europe, he wants Swappie to ultimately have a global presence.

It already operates in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Italy. Marttinen wanted to break into Italy in particular, to see if they could survive in a tough e-commerce market, as Italy’s e-commerce maturity index is low, he says.

“People are suspicious paying high amounts of money online, especially when it comes to any new company,” says Marttinen.

Participants in the Series B round included TESI, Reaktor Ventures, Inventure and Lifeline Ventures who have been investors in Swappie since it received seed funding in 2018. All of which participated in Swappie’s Series A funding round in 2019. The total amount raised by Swappie is currently €42.5 million. The company bootstrapped itself for the first year with €500,000.

Swappie saw its revenues quadruple to over $35 million in net revenue in 2019. The company’s growth has continued to accelerate during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as consumers have shifted to buying more online. This was clear when Swappie recorded a fivefold increase in net revenue growth in April and May 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Swappie’s goal is to ensure used phones fixed-up and re-sold with the highest standards using the latest technology, in an effort to reduce environmental waste and offer consumers an affordable way to access a smart device. Every phone sold comes with a 12 month Swappie warranty for up to 40 per cent less than the price of a new device.  The company mainly deals with the refurbishment of used iPhones.

Headquartered in Helsinki, Swappie employs 260 people and operates a refurbishment factory in the Nordics and sell to consumers through its online store. All Swappie devices are inspected by Swappie’s technicians.