Business

DEMO: EcoATM makes recycling cell phones for cash easy and instant

EcoATM is one of 53 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2011 event taking place this week in Palm Desert, Calif. After our selection, the companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

EcoATM makes electronics recycling as easy as buying a soda. An extremely high-tech soda.

Today at the DEMO conference in Palm Springs, Calif., the company unveiled special recycling kiosks in which you can deposit your cell phone. Using a patented combination of artificial intelligence, advance machine vision, robotics and electronic diagnostics technology, the machine scans it for damage and compares it to prices in the secondary markets, then makes you an offer for cash or store credit.

Last month, the company announced it had raised $14.4 million from Claremont Creek Ventures and Coinstar, maker of coin-counting kiosks that convert loose change into gift cards.

The company has been conducting field trials for 18 months, which have collected 50,000 phones and paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars via 12 EcoATM prototypes.

The company was founded to create a convenient and financially incentivized system for consumers to sell or recycle their used electronics, rather than toss them in landfills, says CEO Tom Tullie.

“We believe most consumers want to do the right thing and will if we provide fair incentive and meet their expected threshold of convenience,” Tullie said.

While there are companies out there that offer buy-backs of cell phones like FlipSwap, Gazelle and Recellular, the latter two use the Web for their offerings and require consumers to put their phones in the mail. EcoATM’s solution goes after offering convenience and immediate financial incentive to consumers, only 10 percent of whom bother to recycle their cell phones, according to the company.

What’s next for the company? They’re currently working with “some of the biggest names in U.S. retail” to place the kiosks as they expand the network of the ecoATMs in 2011, Tullie says.

The company has 15 employees and was founded in 2008. EcoATM’s founding team includes veterans of several startups, three of which went public and five of which were acquired. The value of the deals they were involved in added up to a total of $30 billion.


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