• 10,000+ owners
• 120,000+ registered purchases
These are just two (cherry-picked) data points that give a little taste of Unioncy’s reach in its relatively short existence. It’s therefore a bit sad to share that the project has stopped.
The question of when Unioncy started can be discussed at length. Was it when we had the embryo of the idea while working on a different online project in Istanbul or was it when we wrote the first line of code? To keep things simple, let’s say it was back in February 2013. That’s when we first started working full-time on our idea of building a business around a digital platform that simplifies and enhances the owner experience.
Back then, we had already built a very basic prototype to test and validate the idea. After talking to different investors and accelerators, we decided to join Eleven, an accelerator which is based in Sofia and thus was close to us in Istanbul. A few months later, we successfully launched a first light version of our web app. Light as in, we simulated having a finished product, but actually we were manually delivering the solution to early users. The feedback was great and we soon thereafter decided to move to London. If we could prove our project with users, partners and investors in the UK, then we would be in a good place for the future.
Together with many other cash-strapped startups, we based ourselves in Google Campus. There, we spent some very intense months doing customer discovery and market research, competing in the Seedcamp finals in Stockholm and Berlin, and experimenting with our constantly evolving product, while sticking to our vision.
With Unioncy, we envisioned a digital place where all the information associated with our physical products would be easily accessible, services and protection could be seamlessly purchased, and trading or disposing of them would be simple. Moreover, all the information around our products would be ‘active’, like market values and expiration dates, and used to proactively inform us as opposed to passively remaining on receipts in our drawers or email. This way, we could interact with our things on our own terms, get actionable information when we would need it, and get the most out of our things. We thought of it like the App Store, but for things.
Back in the autumn of 2013, we were getting excited about the feedback we received from early users and we also started to attract interest from investors, press, and advisors. On the back of the interest we were able to build our first ‘real’ product, which we launched in the early summer of 2014. We then spent the next months observing, listening, making improvements and changes, yet still we didn’t get it completely right…
The New Thoughts
As much as things give people joy, ownership has its price as our things continue to come with a lot of work. We must manage instruction manuals, software updates, warranties, receipts, compatibility, repairs, recycling, insurance, disposal and so on. As long as this is the case, we believe that people will look for tools that can help them. However, we have now come to the insight that building tools to help with this kind of work isn’t possible without overcoming some very complex technical challenges or without the support of a large player. Therefore, after all our hard work and careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that we don’t think it’s right to continue the project.
The first ‘real’ Unioncy was a software as a service solution promoted as an automated way to keep a record of your things and their associated information. This solution was the first step in a plan of creating a broader platform for our things that included a P2P marketplace for pre-owned products and a B2C marketplace for services around them. The intention with the first solution was to make it easy for owners to register their things on the platform (by leveraging email technology and automatically extracting information from receipts in their email inbox) in exchange for Unioncy providing them with tools for managing their things and associated information. By the time there would be enough owners and purchases registered on the platform, the idea was to make it easy to also buy services around products and trade used products.
- Today, information about a product as well as details of a purchase are spread out across many players (manufacturers, retailers, payment providers, banks etc). However, consumers would benefit from having access to this data in an aggregated and clean way. After some time and effort of trying to structure and gather this data in one place, it has become clear that there are larger than anticipated technical challenges related to gathering data from multiple sources, understanding that data and keeping it relevant to users. Without solving these challenges, we as an independent startup, will struggle with providing relevant data and for us bad data = unhappy users. Attempting to solve them would require a lot of talent and capital.
- Down the line we pictured a marketplace. Like most marketplace models, you need a very large user base in order for the economics to work and become a lucrative business. In our case, it would mean expanding the proposition of our platform to reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions of users. The thinking was that after pleasing our initial users, we would then expand our proposition to cater to nearby segments of people, with similar needs and interests, and so on. Unfortunately, our first solution didn’t hit the nail on its head and as a consequence we were not on the growth trajectory we wanted.
We have learned a lot from building Unioncy and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences so far, but there’s a time for everything and we feel the right thing to do is to move on.
First of all, we want to thank all our users for your enthusiasm and support. Also, we want to give a big thanks to @elevenbg (@danieltomov, @dilyan_ & @IIsimov), @AlexanderGerko, @mrjackal, @PerKvalvaag, @MatthewByrne for believing in us. A special thanks goes out to our families and friends.
Check us out on Twitter if you want to see what we’re up to next!
Hope to see you around!