Dan Orkin pictured, currently the CMO of PangoBooks.
Every month we feature some of our Everything Marketplaces community members to help highlight their story, marketplace journey, and share more about what's ahead.
In this member feature we highlight Dan Orkin, who's currently the CMO at PangoBooks. PangoBooks is a marketplace for buying & selling used books that's quickly scaled. Prior to PangoBooks Dan was at Reverb, where he helped take it from a team of four to 200+ before it was eventually acquired. Dan is no stranger when it comes to building what might seem like niche marketplaces from the earliest stages.
Prior to working at Reverb, I had been with a more traditional eCommerce retailer in the music gear space. Through a well-timed cold email, I connected with David Kalt when he was getting ready to initially launch Reverb. He offered me a role that started off as a "doer-of-all-things" so to speak, which I'm sure a lot of people in the Everything Marketplaces community can relate to. David was extremely committed to creating authentic and passionate content about music gear with Reverb, so I was fortunate that he gave me the opportunity to build that strategy from the ground up. I've always been a gearhead and also studied history and journalism in college, so it was really the perfect role, at the right time.
There are a ton, but one thing that comes to mind is the importance of building a team that deeply cares about the market you are in and the community. This gives you a huge edge in your ability to relate to your customers, build features that fit their idiosyncratic needs, and broker unique solutions when conflicts might (and will) arise. This was highlighted at Reverb, where we got massive value out of the fact that all of our customer service reps were musicians. If an instrument arrived not as described, they understood what it would take to remedy the situation and could also more directly relate to the disappointed buyer. Now at PangoBooks, we're taking the same philosophy and building a platform that's optimized for passionate readers in every possible way.
After leaving Reverb, I took about six months off where I played a lot of music, read a lot of books that had been piling up, and like seemingly everyone else at the time, baked a lot of sourdough bread. I decided for my next move I wanted to lean into the marketplace side of my Reverb experience as opposed to the music gear side of it. With that in mind, I started looking around for early stage marketplaces that would be a good fit. After my journey with Reverb as it grew from four people to 200+, I learned that I thrive on smaller teams and longed to get back into that startup mode. I ended up meeting Grant Singleton, who's the founder of PangoBooks at the time when he was the sole operator of PangoBooks and it was only a few months post launch. We started chatting about what he was building, and before long, I came on as CMO (Chief Marketing Officer).
Absolutely! To put it very simply, PangoBooks is a marketplace that makes it super easy for book lovers to buy and sell used books to each other. The whole experience is designed to make book selling extremely streamlined and intuitive (and endless props to Grant who designed and engineered the whole system). It's very simple in that you 1.) take a picture of the book, 2.) scan the barcode if there is one, and 3.) from there you just need to enter a few other pieces of info and a price to get the book listed. When it sells, we send a prepaid USPS label which makes shipping super simple too. It's been amazing to see how streamlined this is and how quickly people are able to get their books listed and sold as sellers on PangoBooks. On the other side as a buyer, our community can find fantastic deals on every imaginable book that exists.
PangoBooks is growing super quickly. In a lot of ways, it feels very similar to the first couple years at Reverb as we grew from being a somewhat niche marketplace and operation into one of the dominant brands in the industry. PangoBooks is selling thousands of books a day, from tens of thousands of unique sellers. Currently there are over 400,000+ active book listings on the platform, but as is the case with any goods marketplace, the inventory is constantly shifting as books sell and more listings get created.
So, this is something product and goods marketplaces deal with, but I'd say shifting inventory where a book listing may be here today and gone tomorrow. This can present interesting challenges when it comes to digital advertising, merchandising, and SEO. Luckily, it's the same set of challenges we faced at Reverb, so we've been able to leverage some best practices from my learnings and experience there. Similarly, when you're relying on individuals as opposed to professional retailers as your sellers, there are always going to be at least some issues where someone doesn't ship quickly enough or messes up a book order. We're taking an extremely buyer-friendly stance with our support policies at PangoBooks and consistently finding ways to delight our users, even when frustrating situations arise. With that said, a vast majority of our sellers are absolutely fantastic and constantly amaze me with the extra care and thoughtful touches they bring to their book sales. There's a really warm and wonderful community developing on our platform at PangoBooks!
Reverb was ultimately a big fish in the relatively small pond of the music gear industry, so I'm no stranger to what might seem like niche or vertical marketplaces. With PangoBooks, both books and publishing are absolutely massive markets with a huge opportunity for a marketplace like PangoBooks. While many readers have certainly migrated to eBooks in recent years, there are still millions of readers who cherish the special experience of a physical book. Speaking from my own experience, I find that after a day spent staring at screens, I much prefer the tactile experience of paper when I want to get reading done. Simultaneously, there's an unfathomable amount of potential PangoBooks inventory on people's bookshelves. Most people have a book somewhere in their home they aren't going to read again, so our app makes it extremely easy to turn that book into a few extra bucks and get it into the hands of the next reader. Needless to say, it's a massive opportunity that's also well positioned for a marketplace like PangoBooks that emphasizes an easy selling experience.
Our team has grown from two to eight people in the past six months and we're making significant investments in developing even better tools for book buyers and sellers. On the buyer side, we have an extensive vision for improved discovery where we want to reach the point where we're making amazing and inspiring recommendations to people for books they've never even heard of, but are going to knock their socks off. On the seller side, we have a number of tools coming round the bend that are going to make it even easier for people to sell and really grow their book buying and selling hobbies into side hustles or even full-time small businesses. It's a very exciting time for us now and for our vision for the few years ahead!
Never underestimate the power of doing something awesome that will delight your users, regardless of how it aligns with conventional business metrics. Marketplaces like Reverb and PangoBooks are communities, and communities thrive on people having fun.
Connect with Dan in the Everything Marketplaces community.