Member Feature: Matthew Baron From Gear Focus

Member Feature: Matthew Baron From Gear Focus

Member Feature
January 5, 2022

Matthew Baron pictured, the Founder & CEO of Gear Focus.

Every month we feature some of our Everything Marketplaces community members to help highlight their story, their journey building their marketplace, and get a glimpse at what's ahead.

In this member feature we highlight Matthew Baron, who’s the Founder & CEO of Gear Focus. Gear Focus is an online marketplace for buying & selling camera gear. They’ve recently experienced a surge in demand and have scaled to become a leading marketplace for creatives.

So what’s your background briefly and what led to the idea for starting Gear Focus?

My background has primarily been in marketing, SEO, and social media, along with more recently being an entrepreneur. I’ve spent the later half of my career turning a struggling family business into a digital business through online media, where I was able to eventually grow the business into an Inc. 5000 fastest growing company for 3 years in a row. I’ve also pursued some of my creative endeavors on the side along the way, working as a musician and photographer for many years. Fast forward to 2018 and the business was continuing to grow substantially, but I was eager to pursue my creative interests more. Around the same time, I was also scheduled to back surgery and wanted to have something to do while recovering and taking time away from the primary business. With this in mind, I spent some time shooting photography prior to the surgery, so that I would have a project with the editing while recovering. It was during this time period and really getting back into my creative passion that I realized how difficult it was to buy & sell camera gear when I was looking to make upgrades. I know that there had to be a better way, so I set out to start Gear Focus.

What were some of the first steps you took to build Gear Focus? What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced?

Like many, I built an initial marketplace MVP using an “out of the box” marketplace platform solution. I quickly realized that we were going to have too many product constraints though and that we needed to invest in building out our own tech early. With this in mind, we quickly scrapped the platform we were using and started to invest in building out a custom marketplace platform. This had its own challenges, since product development time and costs were increasingly important as we were bootstrapping in the beginning. We were thankfully able to transition over to our custom marketplace platform timely though, continue to grow revenue, and scale. We’re more product focused now, have a very ambitious roadmap, and have lots of great new features coming in 2022.

What’s the problem that you’re solving for  and how has building Gear Focus as a marketplace proven to be a great solution?

There are not many options when it comes to selling your used camera gear. Most charge commission fees that are so high, it’s almost easier to go to a pawn shop as outdated as that might sound. At the same time of there not being great solutions, photography and camera gear is at an all-time high when it comes to turnover, so there couldn’t be more demand for a marketplace. We created Gear Focus with this in mind and our goal is to allow creatives to earn the most amount of money when selling their gear to others in our community. We think of it more as a circular economy amongst our creative community and not as much as simply buying & selling gear.

It seems like there couldn’t be a better time for Gear Focus than now. Can you share more on the recent surge in demand for Gear Focus and some of the unique opportunities for it?

One of the primary challenges that the photography industry is facing right now is the supply shortage for new gear. As a result of this, people are turning to used gear as the best option for their immediate needs. This has also created an interesting opportunity on the seller-side, where people are now able to sell new or like new gear that is back-ordered at higher prices than ever. This is all happening when the pandemic has accelerated the trend of online shopping, so consumers have more recently become more aware of the larger platforms like eBay, along with the more niche platforms like Etsy or Reverb. The more people spend time on these platforms, the more they want a curated and tailored experience. This also comes with the rise of communities and connecting with others outside of just transacting, so it’s the perfect movement towards the niche and community-driven marketplaces that speak more specifically to individuals like we do with Gear Focus and creatives. With the creator economy also crossing 50 million creators, we're at the beginning of a massive opportunity with Gear Focus.

What’s been the biggest learning so far?

That’s a tough question as there are almost too many to mention! What I didn’t know was that starting a marketplace has a snowball effect, not only in the growth of the business, but also in the learnings that come with it. Each lesson leads to another, so it seems like it only compounds. One thing is for sure though, which is that being capitalized and generating revenue early goes a long way, since what might seem small can turn into meaningful progress, growth, and opportunities.

How big does Gear Focus become and what’s needed to get there?

One of our goals is to get to $300M in GMV. To get there we’ll need to build an amazing team, be well capitalized, and continue to have the drive that we’ve had since the beginning. We’re starting to build the foundation of this and the team now. We’ve just made a key hire with our marketing manager Pierce Codina, who previously worked for Reverb in the past, along with his former colleague and head of customer service from Reverb Daniel Santrella. Daniel has experience building and leading a team of 50+ at Reverb. We’re taking the lessons and learnings from Reverb (which Etsy acquired in 2019), then applying them to Gear Focus to help us achieve our goal. We see Gear Focus as becoming the trusted place for buying & selling camera gear, just like Reverb did for music gear. We’re on track to get there and this is an exciting time right now as we build our team and the foundation for growth.

What’s exciting and ahead for your marketplace that you can share with us?

We have lots of exciting features in the works that will make it even easier to list and sell gear on our marketplace. We’re also creating the largest camera and gear database in the world, so this will make it easier to suggest listing information to sellers (like pricing). This should also help us build out the most comprehensive database for searching what might seem like the most hard to find camera gear, parts, and accessories on the market. Oh, and we also have a slick new app coming, so stay tuned!

Connect with Matthew in the Everything Marketplaces community.