After being robbed while exchanging computer equipment in person and later scammed while selling electronics online, Ally Simbert, 25, who at the time was a college freshman studying computer science at a Miami-area university, met with his twin brother, Steeve Simbert, 25, and best friend Marc Estinville, 26.
?We felt really bad and really sad, but then we said we can make things better,? said Estinville.
They decided to start a company that would make buying and selling safer and easier.
In 2015, this trio of Haitian immigrants launched Stopoint.com, a national company that specializes in buying and selling used electronics. The co-founders recognized that selling products to strangers was unsafe, and also noticed that other companies in their market were buying electronics for unfair prices and making customers wait more than 10 days for payments.
?We made Stopoint based on three fundamentals: to create safety, offer fair prices and provide fast payment,? Estinville said. Because of the sophisticated tech system it created, Stopoint is the only company in the industry that pays within 24 hours, the team said.
It works like this: A customer places a tech product, such as a phone or tablet, that he or she wants to sell on Stopoint?s website. Through Stopoint?s simple process, the customer lists the features, quality and the condition of the product. Stopoint offers a buying price. When agreed, Stopoint emails a shipping label free, and when Stopoint receives the product, it transfers the agreed cash amount to the customer?s bank account via PayPal within 24 hours. Stopoint then takes the product, upgrades and cleans it as needed, and sells it for a markup to an online buyer ? all within three or four days.
Stopoint solves many problems. It brings security back to selling by ensuring people do not have to meet with strangers to sell a product; they can do it entirely online. It provides convenience because customers won?t have to negotiate or wait for weeks to find a buyer. Lastly, it makes the environment cleaner and greener with every electronic device that Stopoint buys by keeping the device out of a landfill.
The team believes one of their biggest strengths is that they collaborate well and their strengths complement one another. The twin brothers came to Miami in 2010 after the devastating earthquake in 2010; Estinville arrived in 2007. All three graduated from the same high school. Ally, ?the computer guy,? received his bachelor?s degree from St. Thomas and master?s in computer engineering from Florida International University. Steeve, whose strength is sales and marketing, is also interested in politics and received his bachelors from Georgetown and then a master?s in public policy from Oxford University. Estinville, the finance specialist, attended Miami Dade College, received his economics degree from FIU and is now enrolled in an MBA program through the University of Florida. ?He sees things in numbers none of us can see,? Steeve Simbert said.
One of their biggest challenges was gaining the trust and credibility of customers. People would Google Stopoint and find nothing, and the company tried marketing and got no returns. That all changed Sept. 28 when a CNET reporter wrote about Stopoint and listed it as a top company where people can sell their Apple watches. Other media followed. ?Stopoint?s bragging point is speed. Stopoint will pay you via PayPal within 24 hours of receiving your device,? wrote reporter Nathan Olivarez in The Wall Street Journal.
Ever since then, business exploded. Before the CNET article, the team was doing just two or three transactions a day, but between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, the company sold 1,500 products and generated $340,000 in revenue. The team has built on that surge through marketing and every week is stronger, Estinville said.
Now, Stopoint is ready to market its service to a broader audience and has been seeking investment to execute its robust growth plan. The startup also has incorporated a philanthropic program called Give 5. For every item it purchased and sold, the company donates $5 to organizations that provide toys for the holidays in Haiti.
?These boys have more than thanked it forward, they live it,? said Juan Casimiro of the Casimiro Global Foundation, who mentors the founders. ?For example, Stopoint sponsored Casimiro Global Foundation to empower hundreds of Haitian children from vulnerable communities through motivational workshops.? Through the same foundation program, the Stopoint founders donated toys to more than 5,000 Haitian children during the holiday season.
Concept: Stopoint aims to provide the fastest, easiest and safest service for the public to sell used electronics.
Launched: March 2015
Management team: Co-founders Marc Estinville, chief strategist; Ally Simbert, vice president of operations; Steeve Simbert, executive consultant
No. of employees: 8
Financing: Investment to date: $60,000. Seeking $1 million for 2017.
Recent milestones reached: Recognized as a top company on CNET, The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post. Secured startup investment funding.
Biggest startup challenge and why: Getting the trust and credibility of our customers. ?Our biggest challenge is securing investment to keep the momentum and growth of the company,? Estinville said. ?It?s a challenge because it is a competitive market, and we are in the race to be one of the top three companies that will dominate this market for many years to come.?
Next steps: Market Stopoint, including expanding all aspects of digital marketing, including social media, Google ads, etc.
Strategy for next steps: Secure $1 million investment and put it into the acquisition of new customers and improving Stopoint systems for continuing to provide the fastest trading service in the industry.
Mentor?s view: ?I saw success in them the minute I met them. These boys turned all of their life challenges into opportunities,? said Casimiro, who runs a BizNovator program that the trio took part in. ?Their progress has grown fast and steadily. They have expanded their client base while creating a very user friendly model.?