Circular, a tech subscription service based in Singapore, aims to prevent devices from ending up in landfills. Circular, supported by Y Combinator, operates as a tech subscription service with a mission to offer subscriptions for premium electronics, including iPhones, Samsung Galaxy devices, iPad Pros, and MacBook Pros to consumers in Singapore and Australia. Its goal is not only to provide people with access to devices at reduced prices but also to extend their lifespan and keep them out of landfills.
Circular Aims to Prevent Devices from Ending Up in Landfills
Today, the company announced the successful closure of a $7.6 million seed round, bringing its total valuation to $30 million. AirTree Ventures led the funding round, with contributions from YC Continuity Fund, Global Founders Capital, Partech Ventures, and January Capital. The round also saw participation from angel investors, including the founders of PropertyGuru, Funding Societies, Stashaway, Carousell, and Nutmeg.
Circular’s team highlights that the tech subscription model has gained popularity in Europe, with a company like Grover raising $330 million in 2022. However, this model is relatively new in APAC, and Circular aims to leverage its position as a pioneering player in the region. The startup states that it has achieved threefold growth in the past 12 months and plans to triple its presence in Singapore and Australia within the next year. While there is another tech subscription service in Singapore called ITEZ.SG, it primarily caters to businesses rather than individual consumers.
CEO and co-founder Nick Ramsay emphasizes that sustainability is a core principle of Circular. He points out that many consumers frequently upgrade their devices, leaving their old phones unused in drawers or cupboards, even though they are still functional. Ramsay highlights the significant environmental impact of this behavior in terms of resource consumption and electronic waste.
Circular’s Business Model
Circular asserts that its business model reduces waste by utilizing each device throughout its entire lifecycle. The company provides both refurbished and new devices, collaborating with industry-leading refurbishment specialists to achieve this.
Circular, established in Singapore in 2021, offers subscription services that include free damage protection covering up to 90% of repair costs. Some examples of products currently available on its website include an Apple iPhone 15 Plus, starting at SGD $74 per month, an Apple iPad Pro M2 12.9” for SGD $64 monthly, and a Lenovo Thinkpad T14 (Gen 3) 14-inch laptop for SGD $94 each month.
For the iPhone 15 Pro Max 256GB, Circular claims that subscribers can save up to SGD $955 compared to purchasing the phone directly from Apple. Additionally, Circular has recently expanded its catalog in Singapore to include gaming products alongside its core offerings of phones, tablets, and laptops.
Ramsay also mentioned that Circular’s affordable monthly subscriptions eliminate the need for consumers to rely on credit cards, Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services, or commit to long-term contracts with telecommunications companies.
When questioned about why subscription tech hasn’t gained the same traction in Asia as in other markets, Ramsay explained, “It’s evident that we are just at the beginning of a new consumption pattern powered by subscriptions and the circular economy.” He went on to say, “It resembles the early days when the subscription model began to disrupt digital products.
Eventually, we all transitioned from purchasing CDs and downloading MP3s to streaming music on Spotify, and from buying or renting DVDs to watching shows and movies on Netflix.
Circular encounters a notable challenge in Asia where there is a prevailing preference for owning physical goods, often associated with status and a sense of achievement. Changing the deeply ingrained tradition of owning devices to embrace a subscription model represents a significant shift for a culture that tends to be cautious about risks and resistant to change.
Ramsay’s approach to this challenge is “mythbusting.” He explains, “We commonly hear that Singaporeans prefer to buy their tech devices upfront, hoping to recover some of the money when they upgrade to a new device in a year. However, in most cases, people don’t actually recoup that initial cost, especially if they don’t consider unexpected expenses like accidental damage, and the device often ends up unused and eventually discarded.”
He also points out that people tend to underestimate the depreciation cost of mobile phones and other electronic devices, along with the inconvenience of selling a secondhand phone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Circular, and What Does it Aim to Achieve?
Circular is a tech subscription service based in Singapore with a mission to prevent electronic devices from being discarded in landfills.
How does Circular Work?
Circular offers subscriptions for high-end electronic devices, such as iPhones, Samsung Galaxy devices, iPad Pros, and MacBook Pros, to consumers in Singapore and Australia. Customers can choose flexible subscription plans based on their needs and preferences.
How is Circular Aligned with Current Consumer Trends?
Circular aligns with emerging consumer trends such as sustainability, changing ownership preferences, and the desire to access the latest technology. Their innovative approach addresses these evolving consumer needs.
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