NJ Biz Profiles Tech Supplier Founder, Alex Blaker
I was recently profiled by NJ Biz Magazine in an article about technology companies in New Jersey. I wanted to share the article with everyone, which you can read in full below.
Any entrepreneur will tell you: The impetus for a business can strike at any time. Or, in any place.
For Alex Blaker, it was in Australia.
Before heading Down Under in January 2008 for a semester abroad through his studies at Skidmore College, Blaker purchased what was then a hot new tech gadget: The iPhone.
How new was the iPhone? Blaker said he may have been the only one on the island continent to have one.
“The phone wasn’t available for sale there yet,” he said. “This was when it first came out, so, it wasn’t sold everywhere. For the five months I was there, I never saw another person with an iPhone. I was like the coolest guy in the country.”
And one of the smartest.
When it came time to leave, the next generation of iPhone was available in the U.S., so Blaker sold the phone he had — for $200 more than he bought it for originally.
And with that, came the idea.
“At that brief moment in time, there was an opportunity to resell iPhones,” he said. “I knew that wouldn’t last. But I also said, ‘There’s something to this.’ Not reselling iPhones in Australia, but buying something and being able to sell it used. It opened my eyes to the fact that this industry exists. It’s not something that they educate you on in college.”
Blaker graduated with a degree in economics and already had a job lined up as a business analyst. He quickly realized there might be a better future.
“Just discovering that the industry is out there,” he said. “It’s not something you see in day-to-day life. That there’s an entire billion-dollar industry I came to learn, based on reselling used electronic devices.
“When I got back to the U.S., I already had a job working in financial services, but the idea of what I had learned in Australia never left me.”
In 2009, he founded Tech Supplier Inc., in Hackensack.
What started as a one-man show that produced nearly $100,000 in revenue the first year, has developed into a multimillion-dollar, 30-person operation that annually ships more than 300,000 products.
And it’s not just phones; it’s laptops, iPads, headphones, speakers and game consoles. If it’s electronic, Tech Supplier has it.
Where Blaker gets his inventory, and where he sells it, is a little more complicated.
“We source from a variety of companies, which can include retailers looking to sell old or excess stock that is taking up room on their shelves,” he said. “It may be retailers selling customer returns. It can be manufacturers selling their tested and refurbished returns that they’ve gotten from other retailers or their own direct-to-consumer retail channels. And you might have a manufacturer with leftover inventory of a previous generation device.”
As for his customers?
“They range from single individuals all the way up to billion-dollar retail giants, like GameStop,” he said. “We are finding them from trade shows, referrals, industry events and just a lot of hard work on Google and LinkedIn.
“Our core competency is working with retailers or brands to move their overstock excess or used inventory by finding the right sales channel to achieve the highest recovery value possible.”
The “highest recovery value possible” line is the key to that elevator pitch.
Blaker knows there is a lot of competition in the space; he tries to beat the competition through customer service and customer experience.
“There are a lot of businesses who focus on taking raw returns and selling to whoever,” he said. “There are fewer people finding a higher quality of subsection of returns, paying more and then partnering directly with retailers or online platforms.”
With superior products, he added.
“When somebody is spending $300 or $400 dollars on a cell phone, that’s a lot of money for them,” he said. “They want to have the same experience that you might have if you’re buying it new. That includes all the details of the packaging, the warranty, customer service and making sure it comes with all the accessories that you’re going to need. And if it’s complicated in any way, it’s making sure instructions are given.
“It’s really Retail 101. Paying that same level of attention on the consumer experience on refurbished devices as everybody is doing on brand new devices.”
Everything Tech Supplier sells comes with some type of warranty. Blaker said most have a warranty from the original supplier. If it does not, Blaker will offer his own.
It’s one of the lessons he learned about the business: Standing by your product — and correctly labeling it — matters.
“The biggest misconception is that you have some unscrupulous people in the industry who try to pass refurbished off as new,” he said. “You have people who perhaps are not aware of what they are buying, because refurbished does not have a well-known and understood quality level.
“That’s the biggest challenge: What is refurbished and what are you getting? That’s why, as much as we can, we make an effort to provide pictures and give details on whether the accessories or the battery are original or not original. There are people in the space who are not providing that level of service, which creates some misinformation in the industry. But it also creates an opportunity.”
One he originally stumbled upon Down Under.
Biz in brief
Company name: Tech Supplier Inc.
President: Alex Blaker
Revenue: Multimillions. Hopes to reach nine figures in next 3–5 years.
One more thing: Alex Blaker, who grew up in Tenafly, has no plans to leave Bergen County. “When I started and hired my first sales guy, we were looking for offices and warehouse space. We looked at a lot of places (in the tri-state region) but we kept coming back to Bergen County because there was a lower operating cost than being in New York and no perceptible change in the talent pool that we were able to find. I can’t imagine any reason we would leave New Jersey.”