Posted September 21, 2023

Stuff used to break.

If you’re of a certain age—*cough* like I am *cough*—you’ll remember that every city and town would have electronics repair shops. Your TV, VCR, clock radio would stop working, and you’d take it in to get it fixed.

Decades ago, electronics chain stores and cell phone carriers figured this out and created point-of-sale insurance programs to cover the future cost of fixes.

But then a funny thing happened. Electronics went solid state—no moving parts—and, for the most part, stopped breaking. And so the repair shops more or less went away, and the insurance programs became wastes of money for consumers who would never use them.

It turns out many items people buy these days are like this—other than light wear and tear, electronics, cars, clothes, etc. mainly don’t break, and retain theoretical aftermarket value for a long time.

Buying something is easy, selling it is hard. Of course you can sell used items on eBay or the like, but the overhead of photographing, listing, boxing, and shipping is still considerable, and with no guarantee of a sale.

And it turns out buying something is also not necessarily so easy either. You sink full up front cost into something that you may want to replace in a year or two when a new version comes out. And it’s easy to overextend yourself and fall into too much debt.

What if there were a subscription service for the things you want to buy—a sort of guaranteed trade-in program for everything?

If we know what a used item will be worth in two years—and we often do, thanks to Internet connectivity and global liquidity—what if you just pay for the new item for two years’ use minus the residual value, and then send it back, no questions asked?

TipTop creates tools that reduce the consumer code of owning products. They offer customers a guaranteed buyback price at the time of purchase, so they only pay for the product while they need it.

And this isn’t even for products you’re buying new now—they do the same for products you’ve purchased in the past, via your Amazon and email account receipts.

The result is a massive step function increase in quality of life for consumers, accompanied by a streamlined supply chain of goods for the entire global market. Products of many kinds become easier to buy, easier to sell, they are used longer by more than one customer across their lifecycles, and waste is reduced. Win/win/win/win.

We at A16Z are delighted to lead TipTop’s Series A funding round, and I am delighted to be on the board. TipTop’s founder is Bastian Lehmann, one of the creators of the modern delivery economy with his company Postmates, and he’s assembled a team of top end engineers and designers to execute the TipTop vision.

The app is in the app store—give it a shot, and start saving money today!