Recycling old electronics is often just enough of a hassle to keep dead phones and iPods lingering in junk drawers for years on end. EcoATM, a company that makes electronics recycling kiosks, wants to change that. And now the startup has received $14.4 million in a Series A funding round led by Coinstar and Claremont Creek Ventures to bring its kiosks to a gas station or supermarket near you.
EcoATM uses electronics diagnostics, artificial intelligence, and machine vision to scan devices, wipe personal data, and stick them into an on-site bin. Users are offered the choice of a coupon, gift card, cash, or charitable contribution for their old electronics. And unlike with Coinstar, there isn't a processing fee. The company's website explains:
ecoATM shops worldwide channels for the best prices we can find for each individual phone model. Because we deal with dozens of buyers all over the world, we generally find better pricing than individual consumers can find on their own. In a sense, an ecoATM acts as an "eBay-in-a-box" without the added hassle to the consumer of listing, packaging, shipping cost, potential return, etc, of eBay or other online methods.
So far, EcoATM only has kiosks in 11 locations throughout the U.S., including the Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, Microsoft's corporate campus in Redmond, Wash., and the Westfield Horton Plaza shopping mall in San Diego, Calif. The new cash infusion will allow the company to better identify and assess electronic devices deposited into kiosks—and to spread the kiosks to even more locations.
"EcoATM's systems must quickly learn and then accurately identify thousands of different models of phones and other devices and then precisely assess any cosmetic or internal damage in order for the system to work," said Chairman and CEO Tom Tullie in a statement. "This requires us to continually push the boundaries on a unique combination of artificial intelligence and non-traditional machine vision technology."
EcoATM claims that it has already collected thousands of cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, GPS systems, and more in its existing kiosks. If the company can keep that momentum going with a larger rollout, it has the potential to become the go-to spot to ditch dead devices.