Gregoire Vigroux, serial entrepreneur, business angel, and co-founder of fenix.eco, tells Business Review about the main achievements of his online store since its launch two months ago, and how successful his business model has been in Western countries.
By Anda Sebesi
What are the novelty and benefits that fenix.eco brings to the Romanian market?
Before fenix.eco, smartphone buyers in Romania only had two options: new but expensive smartphones or second-hand smartphones from websites like OLX, which were affordable, but risky. Fenix.eco has brought a third option to Romanian consumers, offering refurbished smartphones that combine many of the advantages of new phones, including the quality, accessories, and 12-month warranty, but at the competitive price of second-hand models!
How do you think that the local market will respond to this type of service?
Refurbished phones are something new to the Romanian consumer. They’re not new. They’re not second-hand. They’re refurbished! We have to educate the market, explain to people what refurbished means and what benefits it brings them. This will take us a bit of time. Despite the above, the market is reacting very positively and sales are increasing every week on fenix.eco. We are on track to reach our target of selling 4,000 smartphones by the end of the year.
Why did you decide to launch your new business in the middle of the current crisis?
My business partners Adrien Arnoux and Hector Destailleur and I are optimistic people. There are three types of businesses in times of crisis. First, those that go under because they are too fragile or unprepared. Second, those that simply try to weather the storm by trimming costs and delaying investments. Third, those that take risks, hire more people, and embark on bold investments, trying to turn the crisis to their advantage. Fenix.eco belongs to that last category. My business partners and I are adventurous entrepreneurs. We see opportunity where others see risk.
What are your main goals for the Romanian market?
Our main goal for the Romanian market this year is to build brand awareness. We want fenix.eco to become a known and trusted brand to many Romanians. Since we launched on April 6, we have generated 100,000 unique visitors on our online store www.fenix.eco and reached 1 million readers through social media and PR. This is just the beginning of our journey.
To increase our market penetration in Romania this year and expand to other countries in South Eastern Europe next year, we will raise money this summer from local VCs.
What can you tell us about the experience of countries where this type of business is already successful?
The refurbished smartphone market is booming in Western Europe. In France and Germany, 10 percent of all smartphones sold are refurbished. Back Market, Re!commerce, Rebuy and Refurbed are four European companies that operate in our business area. Back Market, the number one French player, is a startup, created less than six years ago. It managed to raise EUR 151 million and has a valuation of EUR 1 billion. The companies mentioned above are expanding to other Western and Central European countries.
Fenix.eco’s strategy is not to go and fight for market shares in those competitive countries. Instead, we are targeting South Eastern Europe (SEE), because this region is an untapped market where we will more easily conquer market share.
Last but not least, we are expecting the SEE refurbished market to surge, driven by three factors: European consumers’ tendency to switch to refurbished, lower purchasing power in SEE than the European average, and an appetite for other types of second-hand products.