French tech startups seem to be engaged in a furious race to the top. The latest victor in this frothy competition is Back Market, which has claimed the title of most valuable French startup on the heels of a $510m round announced today.
The refurbished gadget marketplace is now valued at $5.7bn, which tops the previous record of €4.4bn ($4.98bn) that neobank Qonto reported just yesterday following its €486m funding round.
And January isn’t even half over.
Unlike the other members of this 2022 cohort, Back Market was already a unicorn. But it’s benefiting from the same trends of private equity chasing potential global tech champions. In this case, London-based Sprints Capital led the new round which comes as consumers are embracing recycled electronics.
“It's kind of a perfect storm,” said Back Market CEO and cofounder Thibaud Hug de Larauze. “We’ve been working for seven years in order to be the platform where circular electronics would be accessible and safe for everyone.”
Founded in 2014, Back Market provides a platform to connect the growing number of sophisticated electronics repair shops and factories around the world with consumers. In this respect, it faces competition from such rivals as Vinted, Swappie and Refurbed.
But Hug de Larauze sees the real competition in what he calls the linear economy: people buying new gadgets directly from companies such as Apple or Amazon. For all the progress, sales of refurbished devices are between $80bn and $90bn annually compared to a global consumer electronic of $1.3 trillion every year, the company says.
Back Market wants to flip those numbers and see refurbished products rise closer to the used car market, which in the U.S. accounts for more than 70% of sales (and has spawned a number of very successful VC-backed startups in Europe). For Hug de Larauze, that starts with building greater awareness. Any time a consumer goes to make a purchase, he wants them to be aware that there is a refurbished alternative.
So a big chunk of the new funding will go toward marketing and branding.
“We're going to be a bit louder on the brand side,” he said. “The brand could be everywhere. It could be in the streets. It could be on classic marketing channels. You're going to basically encounter Back Market more often as a consumer.”
Meanwhile, the company will also invest in improving the platform, ensuring device quality and expanding its headcount globally this year by 350 to 1,000. Much of the work on the engineering side will be toward reducing any friction for costumes in terms of finding the right device, ordering it, getting it shipped and having it repaired where necessary.
Back Market has now raised a total of more than $1bn, including a $335m round last May. Previous investors joining the latest round included Eurazeo, Aglaé Ventures, General Atlantic and Generation Investment Management.