Careers at Catawiki
Catawiki’s mission is to make special objects available to everyone.
René Schoenmakers, a Dutch comic book collector, often spent time searching eBay for new items to add to his collection. Over time, he grew to believe that the website made this process too difficult. Specifically, he felt that it was too hard to find comics that were special or unique enough, due to the ability of anyone to list anything and the lack of some kind of filtering mechanism for quality.
Schoenmakers responded to the problem by partnering with Dutch developer Marco Jansen to launch his own site -- Catawiki. Founded in 2008, its name was a combination of the words “catalogue” and “wiki”. This is because it was a wiki-based compendium that enabled comic book collectors to manage and keep track of their portfolios online.
In the next few years, Catawiki expanded its scope to allow catalogues for other items such as coins, postage stamps, and telephone cards. In 2011 it diversified its services by enabling collectors to conduct weekly auctions for their belongings. The site was unique in that it employed a “curator” model through which a team of auctioneers vetted and approved items for auction.
Catawiki became extremely popular. Due to demand, its website, originally only in Dutch, added versions in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Chinese. Its success enabled it to raise €10 million in funding in 2014 and €82 million in 2015. It is now one of the leading online auction houses in the world, and hosts auctions for special objects and collectibles in multiple categories.
Business model of Catawiki
Catawiki has a multi-sided business model, with two interdependent customer segments that are both needed in order to operate: collectors who hold auctions for their items and buyers who purchase the items to add to their own portfolios.
Catawiki offers four primary value propositions: accessibility, convenience, risk reduction, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by making things easier to obtain and providing a wide variety of options. Its weekly auctions enable visitors to bid on thousands of rare, unusual, and exceptional items that would be difficult to find elsewhere. Examples of things that have been sold include a mammoth skeleton, large meteorites, a lock of Napoleon’s hair, and the world’s most expensive Lego set. Its selection is less expensive than that offered at auction houses such as Sotheby's or Christie's.
The company offers convenience by making its site easy to use. Buyers can register for free using Facebook or an e-mail address. They can specify an item of interest and receive an automatic notification if it comes up for auction. Afterwards, they can place bids starting at $1, and if they win they receive the product within three business days. Sellers can also create free accounts, and have their offerings receive a free, professional valuation from Catawiki’s expert auctioneer staff. They can then auction as many items as they desire (with a minimum value of €75).
The company reduces risk by maintaining high quality and safety standards. Its auctioneer staffers evaluate offerings to ensure they are sold at an accurate value. It also has the following policies:
- All of its auction proceedings are verified by an independent notary official
- Sellers are prevented from placing bids on their own items
- If a bid is placed at the last minute, the bidding window automatically increases by one minute, giving other bidders enough time to place a counter-bid
- The company’s employees and family members are not permitted to put items up for auction
- Sellers are required to submit a scan or copy of a valid identification card
The company has established a strong brand due to its success. It touts itself as the leading online catalogue and auction house for collectibles. Its catalog has 3,233,591 items from 1,452,096 registered collectors. It has over 100,000 sellers who conduct more than 300 weekly auctions in which 30,000+ lots are sold per week. Cumulatively, it has auctioned over 30 million objects. It has 12 million monthly visitors who purchase items in a wide variety of categories, including art, antiques, classic cars, coins, comic books, model trains, watches, jewelry, fashion, books, and stamps. Lastly, it has won a number of honors, including a ranking of first place in the 2015 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Europe, Middle East & Africa program, which identifies the region’s 500 fastest-growing firms.
Catawiki’s main channel is its website. The company promotes its offering through its social media pages, advertising, and participation in conferences.
Catawiki’s customer relationship is primarily of a self-service, automated nature. Customers utilize the service through the main platform while having limited interaction with employees. The company’s website provides answers to frequently asked questions and access to an e-mail newsletter with auction news. That said, there is a personal assistance component in the form of phone and e-mail support.
Catawiki’s business model entails maintaining a common platform between two parties: collectors who auction their offerings and buyers who purchase them. The platform includes its website and mobile app.
Catawiki operates the Catawiki Affiliates program, through which it invites third parties to promote the site on their platforms (website, mobile apps, etc.). The company provides these parties with conversion-optimized advertising material such as banners, textlinks, and datafeeds.
Leads that result in seller registrations earn the third party compensation of up to €20 per registration. They can keep track of their transactions and view relevant statistics in general from a personal dashboard.
Catawiki’s main resource is its proprietary software platform, which connects more than 100,000 sellers with over 12 million monthly visitors.
It depends on its human resources in the form of technology employees to maintain the platform, specialist auctioneers to evaluate the worth of submitted items, and customer service employees to provide support.
As a startup it has relied heavily on funding from outside parties, raising $94.83 million from nine investors as of August 2016.
Catawiki has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through significant automation and low-price value propositions. Its biggest cost driver is likely transaction expenses, a fixed cost. Other major drivers are in the areas of sales/marketing and customer support, both fixed costs.
Catawiki has one revenue stream: revenues it generates from the transaction fees it charges. They fall into two categories:
- Seller Commissions – The company charges sellers a fee equaling 12.5% of the winning bid (fee excludes VAT/sales tax).
- Buyer Fees – The company charges buyers a fee of 9% for purchasing items through its platform.
info: René Schoenmakers studied Econometrics and Information Technology at Erasmus University. He previously served as Managing Director of Ordina, as the CEO of Wisdom, as the Founder and CEO of The Missing Link, and as a Program Manager at KPN Research.
info: Marco Jansen earned a B.Sc. in Computer Engineering at Hogeschool Enschedeand an M.Sc. in Computer Science at the University of Twente. He previously served as an Agile Project Manager at ThoughtWorks in London and Bangalore.
info: Willem van Wijmen earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Nyenrode Business University and a Master’s degree in Business Economics at the University of Amsterdam. He previously served as the Chief Operating Officer of Spil Games.
info: Harmen Visscher earned a Bachelor of Economics at Drenthe University of Applied Sciences. He previously served as the Manager of Online Marketing at Catawiki and as a Performance Marketing Director and Display Advertising Product Manager at Traffic4u.
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