Federico Aguilar and Valentín Izquierdo, school friends, have always been avid readers of books, both new and second-hand. Disposing of various items on Wallapop between one move and another, they have found that, although the purchase online has evolved a lot in recent years, selling used objects is still a tedious process. “You have to create product sheets, upload photos, chat with potential stakeholders and even physically meet them for the exchange. If we want to promote the circular economy, frictions must be eliminated on the sales side,” says Izquierdo. To simplify the user experience, in mid-2020 they launched hamelyna platform that is dedicated to the sale of second-hand books through the integration in several markets and that makes sustainability one of its pillars.
Aguilar developed his professional career as a data scientist in various consultancies. Izquierdo, for his part, was for five years export manager in a company that manufactures shower enclosures. In 2019, when his work became more monotonous, parallel to his activity, he released Hookeda brand that sold game console accessories through Amazon. “The business was working very well, but Federico and I wanted to start a business together. Our experiences in technology and marketing complemented each other perfectly, so I left Hooked and we began to lay the foundations of hamelyn“, bill.
At first, Aguilar and Izquierdo relied solely on their own savings, investing around 40,000 euros. Last summer they closed a financing round of half a million euros led by three venture capital funds: Cabiedes & Partners, Itnig and Ángels Capital, the investment arm of Juan Roig, owner of Mercadona.
The startup has two types of customers: those who sell its books — which the founders call vendors — and those who buy them. Among the former, individuals prevail, who choose to get rid of the volumes to achieve more space in the home or to earn extra money. “The remuneration is still low, around 30 cents per book, but the price will go up when we are certain that we can sell the product we bought very quickly,” adds Izquierdo.
Among the providers there is no shortage of users who are sensitive to sustainability, who sell their books to the company so that someone can continue to enjoy them and thus give them a second life. The client scans the ISBN code of the book on the website of hamelyn and an algorithm calculates the selling price. A delivery man picks it up within 24 hours for free, a service available only within the peninsula, and the user receives the payment in his bank account.
In order to sell the second-hand books it receives from its customers, the platform has agreements with several markets: Amazon, where 85% of sales come from, Ebay and the Casa del Libro. “Our employees are in charge of preparing the orders and we use these platforms only as sales channels to gain scalability in the market, in exchange for a commission between 10% and 25%. We want to avoid putting individuals in contact and managing the transaction from start to finish”, adds Izquierdo. Once the company has a broader catalog, its goal is to open its own sales channel to give users the option of buying books directly from its website.
The two entrepreneurs are not considering opening a physical store, since they consider that electronic commerce is much more practical and efficient. Of course, among its plans is the incorporation in its catalog of other categories beyond books, including physical media (physical media used to transmit information), such as vinyl, video games, and electronic devices. “We will have to do analysis and decide whether to go for larger markets that have strong demand or more niches. We are already doing tests on a very small scale,” says Izquierdo.
In addition, this summer the staff will move to a warehouse four times larger than the current one, which will be able to store almost a million books. In 2021, hamelyn invoiced 300,000 euros, a figure that has already been exceeded so far this year. However, he has not yet reached the profit, since all his profits are reinvested in the company, mainly to power web technology.