Tales of Startup Inspiration: Keeping It Real, Keeping It Free


After explaining the idea behind swapit and why we launched it as an invite-only beta, I’d like to talk a bit about why we are keeping it free.

Back in March I was pitching swapit to the vetting committee of the British Chamber of Commerce’s Business Angel Programme. It was a great experience. While being only 2 months into our invite-only beta at that time, I didn’t have all the right answers to their Q&A and therefore, we didn’t make it past that vetting process. We will be back there though, definitely! Anyhow, their feedback was absolutely great and one in particular was very interesting.

“How do we make sure people use swapit instead of Facebook Groups, AsiaXpat or other forums online that are free?”

Well, I have the answer to that now: we are keeping swapit free for a big number of users. Besides the fact that swapit is superior in terms of speed of sale / purchase, facilitation of trades, ease of use and deep mobile integration; we need to ensure people are using our app instead of those other platforms. While we have product-specific advantages like I just mentioned, Hong Kong is a very price-sensitive market. Locals are extremely price-sensitive and we need to make sure we cover that audience, which is not the top 1% of Hong Kong people, but rather the remaining 99%. (Note: This is an oversimplification. Obviously, we have a very specific target audience in mind.)

Keeping It Real – Keeping It Free

We believe it is absolutely essential that users can post their second hand items for free. At the same time, we provide the fastest way to post those items as well as additional features to facilitate the sale quickly.

To succeed in a market like Hong Kong, it is not enough to be just pretty. You got to have an advantage over your competitors in terms of price, aesthetics and value. While the former two are very important, the most important advantage you need to have is value. We create value for our users by providing a unique, efficient and beautiful offering they can identify themselves with. While swapit is mainly a marketplace, yet actually more a trading platform, we deliberately offer free ‘trades’ of items – meaning, you can give items away for free. Just set the price to $0 and you’re done. Again, there is no charge on doing this through our platform. We believe Hong Kong is a great place. We believe people should be empowered to give stuff they don’t need anymore, to people who might have an actual need for those items. To some small extend we believe we can create value for the society of Hong Kong to consume less new products, re-use pre-loved products and therefore reduce waste to some small extend. Trade by trade, swap by swap.

Yet, we do obviously have costs to operate swapit that need to be covered. There is a monetization strategy in place that I won’t be discussing here right now. We are refining it with the help of our beta users and we will publicize it as soon as it is ready. The “Keeping It Free” statement stands, though. So please stay tuned and keep an eye out for future posts about this. You can also talk to us at various events across town or reach out to us directly.


Have you joined the swapit beta yet? It’s invite only, but StartupsHK readers are guaranteed to get in. Just request your invite at: http://swapit.la

This is part 1 of 3 in the Swapit Starting Up Story by Patrick Kosiol, Co-Founder of swapit. Read more about the swapit story in:

Patrick Kosiol (@kozen23) is Co-Founder of S4BB – see his profile on Startbase.hk


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