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  • Writer's pictureJae

Disrupting the secondhand marketplace, for sustainability and charity

When was the last time you tried to buy or sell a secondhand book? Those who have tried would know that the process is not the most streamlined or convenient. The Refuel Team had a chat with Eddie, to learn more about the startup he founded, Thryft, which is a perfect marriage of e-commerce and sustainability.

The Thryft Team: (Top row): Vickneshwaran S/O S Supramaniam, Damien Poh, Tan Ye Kai, Eddie Lim; (Bottom row): Choy Jia Yu, Wu Xinyi


Thryft: Disrupting the e-commerce scene

"If I want to sell a book on Carousell, I have to research on what the retail prices are so I don't over or underprice it. Then, I have to check out the reviews on Goodreads or other review sites to gauge its popularity. After which, I can roughly settle on a price to sell it for, and that's not even considering the meet-ups and negotiations yet!"Eddie muses, as he details a typical user journey when selling secondhand books, sans Thryft.

With Thryft, the initial multi-step process when selling secondhand books online is simplified to just one to two steps, with the algorithm developed by the startup. Just take a picture of your book and send it over to the Thryft Team, and receive a valuation determined by their algorithm. If you're happy with the value, simply drop your books off at one of their collection points, receive in-store credits, and the deal is sealed! Otherwise, you can choose to ask for a revaluation.

For those who want to purchase secondhand books, the options in Singapore are limited to Bras Basah Complex, or various flea markets. Eddie wanted to create something he was sure would bring value to his customers, and Thryft definitely provides a great and convenient alternative. Customers also receive great value for their books, as prices never surpass half the price of a firsthand book.


A Sustainable Bookstore and its Social Impacts

Thryft aims to create a sustainable system of public buying, so the startup partners with organizations on a quarterly basis to donate 10% of all profits to them. Besides, all the packaging used by Thryft are recycled or biodegradable materials, so it could be recycled or reused. The books are wrapped using unused papers from large companies like HP, and strings are used such that no plastics are needed at all!

I've always thought that systemic change is more important in terms of sustainability. I want to create an ecosystem where individuals are not at a disadvantage for trying to be sustainable.

The startup also works with charity organisations like Blessings in a Bag. Thryft provides the platform for charity organisations to carry out book sales, which streamlines their operations, as many of them are still operating on Excel Sheets and Carousell. Most of the books in charity book sales are typically undervalued or overvalued, which increases their need for the Thryft algorithm.


On Motivations and Progress

Eddie has always wanted to build an app that does instant valuation. The Yale-NUS student, however, realised that creating an app was too much to test an idea. Instead, he gathered some friends, who are now his co-founders, to come up with an algorithm to determine if it would work.

To test an idea you don't really have to come up with the full-fledged product at the start. Think of what are the intermediaries that can be used instead.

Despite not having the full-fledged app at the moment, Thryft has been gaining traction and momentum since they launched this January, which is a huge motivating factor for Eddie.

I have always looked at entrepreneurship from the social angle, and not always fully for profits, but to benefit the society and causes that are important too.

The startup just launched Books for Charity, whereby charity organisations can list their books on Thryft at no cost, with 100% of the profits going directly to the organisations.

His end goal is to provide a solution not just for second-hand books, but for all secondhand products, including apparel as well.

So the next time you are wondering what to do with the old books that you no longer need, you can pass them to Thryft who can give your books a new lease of life!


Learning more about entrepreneurship, innovation or just curious about how startups make money? Find out more about Thryft's business model, and check out a SWOT Analysis on the company here!


Refuel was founded to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs through the stories of startup founders. We aim to build a global community of entrepreneurs and innovators, and hustle on together.

We hope you liked the story! If you have any requests for startups to feature, questions on entrepreneurship, or just simply want to chat, feel free to drop us a line at, on Facebook or Instagram!

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