WhatNot’s ‘Twitch Meets eBay’ Model Is Helping Resellers Build New Businesses

Tech Features WhatNot
WhatNot’s ‘Twitch Meets eBay’ Model Is Helping Resellers Build New Businesses

When Cary Williams talks about the future of reselling, pickers should be listening. As American Arbitrage, his videos detailing odd finds@americanarbitrage?lang=en and the sometimes astounding prices people will pay for said items have racked up millions of views on TikTok in the last few years.

Williams has been reselling toys, baseball cards and knick-knacks for more than a decade, traveling throughout his state of Utah. Even though he holds several degrees, he earns his living from ‘picking’ and selling his finds online and he’s noticing a shift.

In the past, he’s sold mostly through eBay. But that’s changed drastically in the last year. Williams currently sells a staggering amount of his stock via WhatNot, a live sales and auction app founded less than two years ago.
The app is catching steam and picking up investors as people start to notice the addictive mix of fast paced auctions and chats, something WhatNot co-founder Grant LaFontaine has described as “Twitch meets eBay.”

If you’ve bought anything on Facebook live or Instagram live, it works in a similar fashion. WhatNot has just streamlined everything for ease of use on the part of the buyer and seller. Buyers load up stock and then ‘go live’ to sell it via lightning fast auctions – some with a timer as small as 30 seconds. Buyers and sellers are able to chat in real-time and pour over an item up close, an incredibly important feature when dealing with collectibles.

“It’s the best selling app we use and we average about 1,500 items a month,” Williams told Paste. He, along with his partner Dawn still sell a good amount of items via eBay, simply because of its large customer base, but WhatNot features real-time selling which Williams sees as the future.

“It allows live interaction with customers and allows you to really show an item. It’s simple for customers to use too,” he said. “It is already changing the landscape and I know many people who were heavy eBay-ers that now sell more on WhatNot. It will continue to grow and I’m sure there will be competition in the live auction space.”

Since its launch in 2020, WhatNot has made a concerted push to populate it’s platform with sellers from all over the internet sphere, but a bulk of the sellers trend towards the collectibles sphere (i.e. comic books, video games and Pokemon cards). But that’s starting to expand and you can now log in and see sales running 24-hours a day.

Those sales have helped with WhatNot’s current strong standing – last year the company raised more than $150 million and was valued at $1.5 billion – as it continues to grow. Just last month, TechCrunch reported that WhatNot had acquired PastelLabs, formerly founded by Jeff Chang, who is now head of growth at WhatNot and previously worked in the same role at Pinterest. Additionally, it reported the company hired Ludo Antonov, who has experience at a number of top tech companies including Lyft, Pinterest and Hulu, to run Whatnot’s engineering team.

It’s not uncommon these days to hear about more and more folks making a side hustle out of reselling flea market finds. The price for sports cards is bewildering and the same goes for Pokemon, VHS tapes and even your old toys are worth thousands (in the right condition), so it makes sense that the market is booming.

Formerly a part-time seller going into 2021, Ryan Campbell has used WhatNot to build out his Bin Hunters business into a full LLC, with a focus on trading card games such as Pokemon and Dragon Ball Super, along with sports memorabilia, golden age comics and antiques.

Operating out of Nutley, NJ, Campbell said the hobby provided a needed distraction for him when his mother was diagnosed with cancer last year. Around this time last year, it was just a passion project. Fast forward to today, Bin Hunters has its own distributor and is officially licensed as an LLC.

“I decided to go all in on my passion. I enjoy countless hours searching through flea markets, warehouses, antique stores, auctions, conventions, and all,” he said. While he still maintains a 9-5 job, he’s able to fit in buying, tracking inventory and selling in his spare time. Bin Hunters has shifted to using WhatNot for most of its sales and Campbell said it’s because it simplifies things for the seller with it’s instant ability to see messages, protection of goods, crowd control, and shipping.

Jason Strong, along with his two brothers have been collecting comic books since their childhoods, growing up in South Louisiana. Strong turned to selling comics full time when he had to step away from his job in computers during the onset of COVID-19. At the start of last year, he approached his extended family about ramping things up by establishing his Stronghold Collectibles LLC.

When WhatNot started recruiting comic sellers from Instagram last year to join the platform, Strong jumped at the chance after a friend recommended the service. He said it was always the ultimate goal to open up a brick-and-mortar shop, but now, WhatNot has put that into question. Strong said he sees regulars pop into his live shows, pushing traffic to his website and he’s always working on innovations to keep the shows fresh and to maximize his take. It’s not uncommon for Strong to have close to 1,500 items loaded in for purchase each show.

“The platform is really fantastic for selling comics. Especially since the pandemic people really like to buy comics online and the live auction format has exploded,” he said. “On the right night a WhatNot show can bring in thousands of dollars in just a few hours.”

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