Q&A: In CEO shuffle at OfferUp, two leaders offer up what’s working, what’s next for mobile marketplace

Incoming OfferUp CEO Todd Dunlap, left, and OfferUp co-Founder and Chief Product Officer Nick Huzar (OfferUp Photo)

Todd Dunlap has experience launching new products and scaling businesses.

In a long career at Microsoft, Dunlap got the original Xbox off the ground as COO of the tech giant’s consumer and online division. As managing director at Booking.com, Dunlap helped the travel giant grow in the U.S. and Canada.

As the new CEO at OfferUp, the leading mobile marketplace, Dunlap joins a 10-year-old, billion-dollar startup that has already established itself as a go-to spot for millions of users looking to pick up or unload household items and lots more.

OfferUp seems to be running away from the pack of other marketplace apps such as Craigslist, eBay and Facebook. It raised $120 million last year, acquired rival Letgo and now has 56 million users. With 350 employees between offices in Bellevue, Wash., and Miami, OfferUp is ranked No. 9 on the Mekhato 200.

But Dunlap still sees lots of potential for further innovation and growth. “I think it’s unlimited,” he said. “There’s so many things that could be done.”

Mekhato caught up with Dunlap and OfferUp’s co-founder and outgoing CEO Nick Huzar, who will remain at the company as its new chief product officer, as well as president and board chair.

Keep reading for our Q&A with Dunlap and Huzar, edited for length and clarity.

Mekhato: Why OfferUp, Todd? What did you see and appreciate in the company and in the potential for the business?

Todd Dunlap: I think it started honestly with the culture and a great set of values that were persistent in everyone I met with and talked to. It starts with Nick and the team, but just a really great environment, and that’s important to me.

Obviously the product and the potential of the product is huge. The millions of users, the value it brings, and still the potential, certainly with local commerce, is something else. The people, the culture, the product, the potential — and then I’m always looking at this stage in my career, are the opportunities that OfferUp faces matched to the capabilities or learnings that I’ve had in my past? And there was just a really nice match.

Mekhato: How did your experience at Booking.com and at Microsoft prep you for this role?

Dunlap: At Booking it was a story of taking a product that was working relatively well in Europe and making it work for the U.S. and then scaling and building it, starting in a temporary office with a handful of people and growing the business to 3,500 folks. It required lots of heavy lifting, focus on the product, focus on customers, focus on partners and really getting that flywheel spinning. I see a lot of familiarity in that experience for me to OfferUp.

PREVIOUSLY: OfferUp hires former Booking.com managing director Todd Dunlap as CEO

Microsoft, I consider it kind of my leadership MBA — how to lead, how to scale, learning how to be effective and driving results through people. And also just the Xbox experience, taking something from an idea and being persistent. The Xbox idea wasn’t something that was embraced from the beginning. It took a couple swings to get it to the point where we had the support to get it moving. Taking an idea to a product is fun, is exhilarating, and exhausting and all those things. Bunch all that stuff together, you look at OfferUp and where Nick and team have built a great business and what the next chapter can be, I think there’s a lot of relevance.

Mekhato: What are some of the larger industry tailwinds are that are helping drive growth at OfferUp? The acceleration of e-commerce during the pandemic — what impact did that have on your business?

Nick Huzar: What’s been fascinating during COVID, especially at the beginning, everything was shut down. Where do you go to get workout equipment or a bike? People needed things, especially people that were going to be in their house. My den did not look like this before COVID by the way, everything in here is from OfferUp. It was one of those things where I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m going to be here now for awhile. I’ve got to buy furniture, I’ve got to buy all these things.’ And at the time there were not a lot of places to go so OfferUp became a pretty meaningful place for people to find things they couldn’t get. Even now, if you look at supply chains to buy a bike — I was in Greg’s [Greenlake] Cycle the other day and they said, ‘Oh, if you want this kind of bike you’re gonna have to wait to 2023.’ So still some of those things are pretty persistent.

The other thing that’s been kind of touching to hear, and kind of sad in some ways, is you had people that were really hurting, that lost their jobs. In some cases we saw people literally liquidating things in their house to buy groceries. Those are just the tear-jerker stories that you hear. I’ve just been happy to see that when times are tough for people that people do turn to OfferUp and they can benefit by finding things and getting things at a great deal or selling things they have to make ends meet. We saw a lot of growth last year, a big part of it was definitely COVID. And then the other part was we acquired our next closest competitor [Letgo]. So that was also another major catalyst for growth.

(OfferUp app screen grabs)

Mekhato: What’s the most popular product or product categories right now?

Huzar: Furniture, No. 1. Hands down. Electronics, clothing, household goods. These are all very big categories for us. There was a spike though, especially in the beginning of COVID, workout equipment was through the roof. All the gyms closed down and everyone was like, ‘What are we gonna do?’ That’s now kind of more normalized, but there was a period of time I told anyone selling workout equipment, ‘Don’t even negotiate, because you can get whatever you want. It’s a sellers market.’

Mekhato: Who do you view as the competition these days? Have you not completely replaced Craigslist by this point?

Huzar: The market opportunity is so big for what we’re doing. We don’t all shop at Walmart today, right? I think people want choice. They’re going to be attracted to different platforms for various reasons. The exciting thing, when I think of the market today, especially when we brought Letgo into the fold, is we don’t spend a lot of time talking about others in the market. We’re just really kind of leaps and bounds in terms of scale above everyone else. You can still use Craigslist, you can use Nextdoor, you can use Facebook, these are other places people clearly go to. We’re the largest standalone mobile marketplace hands down, and we’re going to continue to go deep. We’re going to continue to focus on removing friction and providing value for people. That’s all we do all day. I think at the end of the day, at least in my time in technology, I find that the player that has a singular focus long term tends to kind of get the lion’s share of the opportunity. And so my hope is that will continue to be OfferUp.

Mekhato: Do you know what the total addressable market is for what you guys are doing? 

Huzar: That’s the million-dollar question. We’ve gotten that for 10 years, and it’s really hard because it’s not just unused stuff in our homes, but we have a lot of retail stores using OfferUp now. You add all that up, it’s hard to have a good answer to that. I’m not saying OfferUp is gonna work for everything. Over time we’re really gonna hone in on what’s the sweet spot for us. But we’ve never had a good answer for that, to be honest.

Mekhato: Tell me about anything you’re doing still when it comes to safety. I saw a story out of New York last month where some teens robbed some other teens. Are you doing anything new to prevent this sort of illicit activity on the platform? 

Huzar: Trust and safety — because we are bringing millions of people together every month — is always a top priority for us. As you may know through previous conversations, we spend a lot of time focusing on that. We have MeetUp Spots that we rolled out — we have thousands of these, and we’re continuing to roll those out. Our goal is to equip our users to make really wise, informed decisions. Everything from recommending MeetUp spots, which have a well-lit location with a camera; ratings at the end of transactions; real profiles — are you dealing with a real person, which again, on some other platforms, you don’t even have that.

The goal would be to have zero incidents. That’s never gonna probably happen, but let’s make sure we’re equipping people in the best way possible. It is an ongoing thing, and it’s something that we will constantly invest in.

Mekhato: Can you talk about any of the backend technology such as artificial intelligence or machine learning that is improving the user experience?

Huzar: I think a big part of OfferUp and a lot of where we’re doing more and more machine learning is around … well, one, trust and safety. That’s a big area where we’re constantly trying to learn and be more proactive versus reactive. The other big area is the whole discovery experience. When you open up OfferUp today, we all see a very similar experience, but how do we get it so it’s personalized to you? You’re going to see the whole feed and search change pretty dramatically in the next year and it’s going to be far more personalized based on who you are, where you are, what’s interesting in the area.

There’s also a lot of noise in our feed. I always use the dress example: I still see dresses in my feed. I’ve never bought a dress, let’s just get rid of them. But today we’ve got a lot of rigid rules and things in place. So we need to break those down and have that experience be 100% driven by data science. When you’re posting an item on OfferUp, how can we continue to remove friction? Maybe we suggest pricing and getting better image recognition and things like that. So those are ongoing areas we’re going to constantly invest.

RELATED: Read our March 2020 Q&A with Nick Huzar after the startup landed $120M in funding

Dunlap: And all I’ll add is that I have a bunch of listening and learning before I could answer that question competently or capably from an OfferUp perspective. In my current context at Booking, the good news is that we offer millions and millions of options for consumers when they’re looking for a place to stay. The bad news is we offer millions and millions of places that users can look at when they want to stay at a place. So how do we learn over time and how do we personalize content to really know who you are and know what you like and know what you prefer? In that personalization, we offer you a better experience and get better conversions. You’re coming — whether it’s Booking or whether it’s OfferUp — you’re coming to the site with intent, and the better we get at meeting that intent the better experience it’s going to be for you, and that’s better for the business.

Mekhato: How do you hit the ground running, Todd, and what are the future plans for OfferUp?

Dunlap: I’ll come in to OfferUp with a lot of intent around what I just said, listening and learning. And so I’m going to spend a lot of time with the teams, go deep in the business, across the product, financials, understand the customer experience, customer journey, understand the seller experience, the seller journey — really get my hands around the business. Because I like to say that I’m not bringing the Booking.com playbook to OfferUp or the Microsoft playbook to OfferUp; OfferUp needs its own playbook. And the way to get its own playbook is to bring experience and put it in context, work with the team and continue to build on the good work they’re doing.

You asked upfront what attracted me to OfferUp, and it is the potential. I think it’s unlimited. There’s so many things that could be done. And then it becomes less about what are we doing and it becomes what’s first and how do we prioritize the work to make sure we’re delivering the most value to consumers and building the best platform and experience going forward.

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