We’re transforming how people buy and sell their furniture. I'm Reham Fagiri, CEO & Co-Founder of AptDecoFeatured

Hi Elpha,I'm Reham Fagiri, Co-Founder & CEO of AptDeco, a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling quality pre-owned furniture.I was born and raised in Khartoum, Sudan. I came to the United States to pursue my undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland. After college, I got a job at Goldman Sachs and moved to New York. As anyone living in NYC can attest, buying and selling pre-owned furniture is frustrating. So I started AptDeco with my co-founder, Kalam, 5 years ago to solve this problem once and for all.We're ventured backed and have since grown to a 100+ person team.I'm here to talk about startups, building an online marketplace (the chicken and egg problem), being an immigrant founder, growing a team, fundraising, or something else!
I was a New Yorker for 9+ years, and love AptDeco! So many questions: 1. Can you share more about the decision to staying in one market for 5+ years vs. expanding nationally? 2. What's your take on ROI of NYC subway ads? 3. To reach such an amazing YoY revenue growth, what's your strategy?
Hi Kuan, thanks for all the love!1. The New York market is huge so there is a lot of opportunity here. Also, expansion requires a lot of capital so before expanding we needed to ensure that a) we have a diversified set of acquisition channels b) operationally we can handle it c) we have enough capital. Many marketplaces die because they've expanded too fast so for us we made the decision to focus on our core market and ensure we can win here before going to other markets.2. Subway ads have been great for us. They helped us build our brand name and establish the trust factor that's so essential for this type of marketplace. 3. We've always focused on the business fundamentals e.g. build something that people actually want because people will tell their family/friends and will come back often and focusing on the unit economics, bottom line etc. As a tech startup, it's important to continue to grow but this shouldn't come at the expense of the fundamentals imho.
Can you share a little about how you started AptDeco and how much bootstrapping you did before receiving any funding?
Hi there - I started AptDeco because I had a terrible experience trying to sell my furniture on Craigslist. When I decided to work on the business I first needed to validate if this is a big opportunity. I validated this by sizing the Cralgislist market and creating a simple MVP to test if people would be open to a new way to buy/sell furniture. We bootstrapped the business and our first outside capital was when we got accepted into YC.
Thank you for sharing this! At my company, Stock Card, we are focusing on doubling conversion every month. The biggest challenge is that we still don't know exactly what are the "knobs" we have to play with. How did you figure out what you need to double-down on to grow revenue by 50%? How did you find your revenue drivers?
I wish there is a magic formula. It's really about trying a lot of things out and see which 2 - 3 things stick then doubling down on those things that work. I'd encourage you to focus on collecting/analyzing data and talking to your customers face to face (if possible). Collecting insights will help you know which knobs to turn and in which direction.
Thank you, @reham! Looks like we areon the right track then.
I am currently building a marketplace for small business financing and support in Nigeria, and I am wondering how you decided which user to focus on initially. Did you focus on the furniture sellers or the buyers? How did you build your team around this focus?
Hi there - for a marketplace you have to do both at the same time but we first tried to get sellers on the platform then we tried to get these items sold. Once sellers saw success with our platform they added more listings and told their friends about it.
Thanks so much for sharing. I'm starting a marketplace and would like to hear about your go-to-market strategy for a marketplace, your pre-launch marketing strategy, and any general marketing resources or tips you might have as someone without a marketing background. Thanks a lot.
Hi there- in the early days it was hacking our way there, you definitely don't need a marketing background to do this. We would reach out to people on Craigslist and encourage them to list their products on AptDeco. Even if they didn't list it, we'd still copy their listing and list it on our site. Then we'd go back on Craigslist and post the same listings and link back to our site. We tried to partner with moving companies, real estate companies or anyone who made sense to try to get customers without having to pay for them (we were bootstrapped). We also tested digital channels like Facebook, IG, etc and iterated.
can you please share about your experience and the decision making process behind transitioning from a corporate role to doing pretty much the opposite in building and growing a company from nothing?
I was ready to leave corporate and do something different. I'm an engineer and had experience building products, leading teams, etc and wanted a change. I was ready to be more on the "business side" of things but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do yet so I enrolled to get an MBA first which helped me explore various career options. During my time in business school I gravitated towards startups and decided that I'd like to start one someday. I was planing to join a later stage startup after business school but got side tracked when I came up with this idea :)
Hi @reham! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. I'm curious how you built your brand over time. What marketing channels were most successful, least successful, and any surprises in there? And what role did the community play in championing AptDeco?
We are always testing channels. For example, Facebook and IG weren't successful channels in the early days but now they are. So it's all about experimenting, collecting data and making tweaks. When we first started Craigslist was a large channel for us along with friends and family referrals.
Thank you for being with us this week, Reham! Reham will be answering your questions on Friday. So be sure to upvote the ones you most want her to answer with emojis, since she may not have time to answer all your questions.
Hi @reham thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. How did you approach the chicken and egg and address user retention. When is came to delighting your customers can you share ways you ensure they had a great user experience :) thanks
Hi Maryanne,- in the early days it was hacking our way there. We would reach out to people on Craigslist and encourage them to list their products on AptDeco. Even if they didn't list it, we'd still copy their listing and list it on our site. Then we'd go back on Craigslist and post the same listings and link back to our site. - The main issue with chicken and egg problem is that you always have to keep a balance. Most marketplaces are supply side constrained. Keeping a close eye on product turnover (items sold vs. items listed) will give a good idea on where you should focus your time.- As far as delighting customers, we focus a great deal on the operations side to ensure the buyer receives the item they've purchased when they want it and the seller sells their item as quickly as possible and earns the most amount of money. By focusing on ensuring that operationally we're able to deliver on this mission customers to be very delighted :)
Please share your detailed experience of how you went from thinking stage to funding stage because I am planning to fund my startup and I dont know how I should really make the way.
Thank you Reham! I am the co-founder of Cirtru - The Most Trusted Roommate Finder. What's your revenue model? Is it important to build an end-to-end solution for e.g. does your startup take care of the transactions and delivering the furniture? How do you get more seekers on your site apart from SEO and facebook campaigns.